Analysis of surface circulation structures along a frequently repeated XBT transect crossing the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas

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A dataset of XBT (eXpendable BathyThermograph) temperature profiles collected by ships of opportunity along the Genova–Palermo route, since September 1999, is analyzed, together with altimetric observations and model results, with the purpose of identifying and characterizing robust circulation features along the track and investigating their variability. An anticyclone is found in the Ligurian Sea, just north of the Corsica Channel, not present in previous descriptions of the Mediterranean Sea circulation. It appears to be a recurrent feature, better defined and stronger in summer and in the beginning of autumn. In the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the well-known Bonifacio dipole shows a similar seasonality, in agreement with previous observations. However, the Bonifacio anticyclone also displays a strong interannual variability, not previously recorded, with significant variations in position and shape. In fact, the data suggest the existence of two distinct summer circulation regimes related to the position and shape of the Ligurian anticyclone. When the latter is wider, filling the entire region north of the Corsica Channel, the circulation in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea is isolated from that in the Ligurian Sea, in agreement with the common picture. However, the altimeter maps show that there are several cases in the last two decades in which the Ligurian anticyclone is small and displaced to the west, allowing an inflow through the Corsica Channel into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The two regimes appear to result from a delicate balance between the forcings acting in the two sub-basins and the topographic constraints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767 - 783
Number of pages17
JournalOcean Dynamics
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography

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