Meteorologically-induced mesoscale variability of the North-western Alboran Sea (southern Spain) and related biological patterns
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Author/sMacías-Moy, Diego; Bruno Mejías, Miguel; Echevarria-Navas, Fidel; Vázquez-López-Escobar, Águeda; Garcia-Jimenez, Carlos Manuel
DepartmentBiología; Física Aplicada
SourceEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 78 (2008) 250-266
Hydrographic mesoscale structures in the North-western Alboran Sea show a high variability induced by a number of different factors. One of the most important is the differences in atmospheric pressure over the Mediterranean basin when compared to the Gulf of Cadiz. This difference modulates the zonal wind field in the Alboran Sea and the intensity of the Atlantic inflow through the Strait of Gibraltar, also affecting the formation and extension of the Western Alboran Gyre (WAG). When westerly winds are dominant, lower atmospheric pressure in the Mediterranean enhances the inflow of Atlantic waters causing the Atlantic Jet to be located in the vicinity of the Spanish shore, creating a well-defined frontal zone in front of Estepona Cove. In this situation, the coastal upwelling is enhanced, leading to a minimum in sea surface temperature and a maximum of surface nutrient concentrations located in the coastal area. The vertical position of the chlorophyll maximum found in these circumstances appeared to be controlled by the nutrient availability. On the other hand, when easterly winds prevail, higher atmospheric pressure in the Mediterranean leads to a reduced inflow and the oceanographic and biological structures are clearly different. The Atlantic Jet moves southward flowing in a south-eastern direction, changing the structure of the currents, resulting in an enhanced cyclonic circulation extending throughout the North-western Alboran Sea basin. These physical alterations also induce changes in the distribution of biogeochemical variables. Maximum nutrient and chlorophyll concentrations are located further off the coast in the central area of the newly created cyclonic gyre. During these easterlies periods coastal upwelling stops and the distribution of phytoplankton cells seems to be mainly controlled by physical processes such as advection of coastal waters to the open sea. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.