Hydraulic criticality of the exchange flow through the strait of Gibraltar

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The hydraulic state of the exchange circulation through the Strait of Gibraltar is defined using a recently developed critical condition that accounts for cross-channel variations in layer thickness and velocity, applied to the output of a high-resolution three-dimensional numerical model simulating the tidal exchange. The numerical model uses a coastal-following curvilinear orthogonal grid, which includes, in addition to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Gulf of Cadiz and the Alboran Sea. The model is forced at the open boundaries through the specification of the surface tidal elevation that is characterized by the two principal semidiurnal and two diurnal harmonics: M2, S2, O1, and K1. The simulation covers an entire tropical month. The hydraulic analysis is carried out approximating the continuous vertical stratification first as a two-layer system and then as a three-layer system. In the latter, the transition zone, generated by entrainment and mixing between the Atlantic and Mediterranean flows, is considered as an active layer in the hydraulic model. As result of these vertical approximations, two different hydraulic states have been found; however, the simulated behavior of the flow only supports the hydraulic state predicted by the three-layer case. Thus, analyzing the results obtained by means of the three-layer hydraulic model, the authors have found that the flow in the strait reaches maximal exchange about 76% of the tropical monthlong period. © 2009 American Meteorological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2779 - 2799
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography

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