Inter-annual variability and long term predictability of exchanges through the Strait of Gibraltar

Boutov D, Peliz A, Miranda PMA, Soares PMM, Cardoso RM, Prieto L, Ruiz J, Garcia-Lafuente J
Global and Planetary Change, 114:23–37, doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2013.12.009

Download PDF


Inter-annual variability of calculated barotropic (netflow) and simulated baroclinic (inflow and outflow) exchanges through the Strait of Gibraltar is analyzed and their response to the main modes of atmospheric variability is investigated. Time series of the outflow obtained by high resolution simulations and estimated from in-situ Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) current measurements are compared. The time coefficients (TC) of the leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF) modes that describe zonal atmospheric circulation in the vicinity of the Strait (1st and 3rd of Sea-Level Pressure (SLP) and 1st of the wind) show significant covariance with the inflow and outflow. Based on these analyses, a regression model between these SLP TCs and outflow of the Mediterranean Water was developed. This regression outflow time series was compared with estimates based on current meter observations and the predictability and reconstruction of past exchange variability based on atmospheric pressure fields are discussed. The simple regression model seems to reproduce the outflow evolution fairly reasonably, with the exception of the year 2008, which is apparently anomalous without available physical explanation yet. The exchange time series show a reduced inter-annual variability (less than 1%, 2.6% and 3.1% of total 2-day variability, for netflow, inflow and outflow, respectively). From a statistical point of view no clear long-term tendencies were revealed. Anomalously high baroclinic fluxes are reported for the years of 2000–2001 that are coincident with strong impact on the Alboran Sea ecosystem. The origin of the anomalous flow is associated with a strong negative anomaly (~ - 9 hPa) in atmospheric pressure fields settled north of Iberian Peninsula and extending over the central Atlantic, favoring an increased zonal circulation in winter 2000/2001. These low pressure fields forced intense and durable westerly winds in the Gulf of Cadiz–Alboran system. The signal of this anomaly is also seen in time coefficients of the most significant EOF modes. The predictability of the exchanges for future climate is discussed.