Tracking the Mediterranean outflow in the Gulf of Cadiz.

Gasser, Marc, Pelegrí, Josep L., Emelianov, Mikhail, Bruno, Miguel, Gràcia, Eulàlia, Pastor, Marcos, Peters, Hartmut, Rodríguez-Santana, Ángel, Salvador, Joaquín and Sánchez-Leal, Ricardo F. (2017) Tracking the Mediterranean outflow in the Gulf of Cadiz. Progress in Oceanography, 157 . pp. 47-71. DOI 10.1016/j.pocean.2017.05.015.

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• We track the preferential pathways of the Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW).
• A topographic analysis method is used to identify the MOW hydrological avenues.
• Contour avenues and cross-slope channels have complementary roles steering the MOW.
• The MOW is a density-driven current steered by both bottom topography and the Coriolis force.


The Mediterranean Water leaves the western end of the Strait of Gibraltar as a bottom wedge of salty and warm waters flowing down the continental slope. The salinity of the onset Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW) is so high that leads to water much denser (initially in excess of 1.5 kg m−3) than the overlying central waters. During much of its initial descent, the MOW retains large salinity anomalies – causing density anomalies that induce its gravity current character – and relatively high westward speeds – causing a substantial Coriolis force over long portions of its course. We use hydrographic data from six cruises (a total of 1176 stations) plus velocity data from two cruises, together with high-resolution bathymetric data, to track the preferential MOW pathways from the Strait of Gibraltar into the western Gulf of Cadiz and to examine the relation of these pathways to the bottom topography. A methodology for tributary systems in drainage basins, modified to account for the Coriolis force, emphasizes the good agreement between the observed trajectories and those expected from a topographically-constrained flow. Both contour avenues and cross-slope channels are important and have complementary roles steering the MOW along the upper and middle continental slope before discharging as a neutrally buoyant flow into the western Gulf of Cadiz. Our results show that the interaction between bottom flow and topography sets the path and final equilibrium depths of the modern MOW. Furthermore, they support the hypothesis that, as a result of the high erosive power of the bottom flow and changes in bottom-water speed, the MOW pathways and mixing rates have changed in the geological past.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Mediterranean outflow water, Strait of Gibraltar, Gulf of Cadiz, Topographic steering, Bottom drainage system, Along-slope contour avenues, Down-slope erosional channels
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
Publisher: Elsevier
Projects: FLOWS
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2018 12:07
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 09:01

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