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Sci Adv. 2017 Nov 15;3(11):eaao0609. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aao0609. eCollection 2017 Nov.

The Mediterranean Overflow in the Gulf of Cadiz: A rugged journey.

Author information

1
Spanish Institute of Oceanography, Cadiz Oceanographic Center, Muelle de Levante s/n, Puerto Pesquero, Cádiz E11006, Spain.
2
University of Malaga Physical Oceanography Group (GOFIMA), ETSI Telecomunicación, Campus de Teatinos s/n, Málaga E29071, Spain.
3
Department of Physical and Technological Oceanography, Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, Barcelona E08003, Spain.
4
Spanish Institute of Oceanography, Gijón Oceanographic Center, Avenida Príncipe de Asturias 70 bis, Gijón E33212, Spain.
5
Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK.
6
Department of Geophysics and Energy, Instituto Dom Luiz, Faculty of Sciences (IDL-FCUL), University of Lisbon, Campo Grande Ed. C1, Piso 1, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.
7
Center of Marine Sciences (CCMAR/FCT), Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal.
8
Andalusia Institute of Marine Sciences, Spanish National Research Council (ICMAN-CSIC), Republica Saharaui 2, Puerto Real E11519, Spain.
9
Spanish Institute of Oceanography, A Coruña Oceanographic Center, Paseo Marítimo A. Francisco Vázquez 10, A Coruña E15001, Spain.

Abstract

The pathways and transformations of dense water overflows, which depend on small-scale interactions between flow dynamics and erosional-depositional processes, are a central piece in the ocean's large-scale circulation. A novel, high-resolution current and hydrographic data set highlights the intricate pathway travelled by the saline Mediterranean Overflow as it enters the Atlantic. Interaction with the topography constraints its spreading. Over the initial 200 km west of the Gibraltar gateway, distinct channels separate the initial gravity current into several plunging branches depth-sorted by density. Shallow branches follow the upper slope and eventually detach as buoyant plumes. Deeper branches occupy mid slope channels and coalesce upon reaching a diapiric ridge. A still deeper branch, guided by a lower channel wall marked by transverse furrows, experiences small-scale overflows which travel downslope to settle at mid-depths. The Mediterranean salt flux into the Atlantic has implications for the buoyancy balance in the North Atlantic. Observations on how this flux enters at different depth levels are key to accurately measuring and understanding the role of Mediterranean Outflow in future climate scenarios.

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