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Observations of deep convection in the Gulf of Lions, Northern Mediterranean, during the winter of 1991/92

American Meteorological Society
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  • Musicology
  • Physics


During December 1991 to April 1992 measurements with moored acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) stations and shipboard surveys were carried out in the convection regime of the Gulf of Lions, northwestern Mediterranean. First significant mixed layer deepening and generation of internal waves in the stratified intermediate layer occurred during a mistral cooling phase in late December. Mixed layer deepening to about 400 m, eroding the salinity maximum layer of saltier and warmer Levantine Intermediate Water and causing temporary surface-layer warming, followed during a second cooling period of late January. During a mistral cooling period from 18 to 23 February 1992, convection to 1500-m depth was observed, where the size of the convection regime was 50–100 km extent. Vertical velocities 40–640 m deep, recorded by four ADCPs of a triangular moored array of 2 km sidelength in the center of the convection regime, exceeded 5 cm s−1 and were not correlated over the separation of the moorings. Horizontal scales estimated from event duration and advection velocity were only around 500 m, in agreement with scaling arguments for convective plumes. Plume activity during nighttime cooling was larger than daytime daytime. Significant evidence for rotation of the plumes could not be found. Overall, plume energy, and the degree of mixing accomplished by them, was much lower than observed during a stronger mistral in February 1987. The mean vertical velocity over the mistral period, determined from the four ADCPs, was near zero, confirming the role of plumes as mixing agents rather than as part of a mean downdraft in a convection regime. The cyclonic rim current around the convection regime was confined to a strip of <20 km width with an average velocity of about 10 cm s−1, which is in agreement with near-zero vertical mean velocity in the interior based on potential vorticity conservation. A relation between variations of the larger-scale cyclonic North Mediterranean Current along the boundary and the deep convection could not be identified. An unexplained feature still is the cover of the convection regime by a shallow layer of light water that moves in rather quickly from the sides after the cooling ends.

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