Articles | Volume 21, issue 1
31 Jan 2003
 | 31 Jan 2003

Temporal evolution of thermal structures and winter heat content change from VOS-XBT data in the central Mediterranean Sea

V. Kovačević, M. Gačić, G. Fusco, and V. Cardin

Abstract. Seasonal and year-to-year time evolution of the thermal structure, including the heat content change in the upper water column and its relationship with the surface net heat fluxes, have been studied at five locations in the central Mediterranean Sea. The study is based on temperature profiles collected during XBT surveys (eXpendable Bathy-Thermograph) carried out on ships of opportunity, in the framework of the MFSPP (Mediterranean Forecasting System Pilot Project), between September 1999 and May 2001. The five investigated zones are located in the southern Adriatic, NW Ionian, southern and northern Tyrrhenian, and Ligurian Sea. Gradual erosion of the thermocline in autumn, formation of a mixed layer in winter, and the onset of the stratification in spring, are common properties of the temporal evolution of thermal structures at all five locations. Moreover, in the southern Adriatic, a deep convection took place down to about 600 m in winter 1999/2000. On the other hand, mild climatic conditions and small surface heat loss in autumn and winter 2000/2001 drastically reduced a mixing/convection depth which hardly reached 200 m. Simultaneously, the NW Ionian remained slightly stratified throughout the winter period. The heat storage rate in the upper portion of the water column (down to 450 m) is compared with the air-sea net heat flux at a monthly scale. A heat content decrease is determined by the surface heat loss, and the processes such as lateral advection, or upwelling of the colder waters through the base of the water column (for example, in the southern Adriatic and Ionian Seas). Elsewhere (for example, in the northern Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas), the upwelling does not contribute significantly to the heat balance within the water column, since the vertical temperature gradients in deeper layers are negligible.

Key words. Oceanography: general (climate and interannual variability; descriptive and regional oceanography) – Oceanography: physical (air-sea interactions)