Surface distribution of chlorophyll, particles and gelbstoff in the Atlantic jet of the Alboran Sea: from submesoscale to subinertial scales of variability

Ruiz, J.; Cipollini, P.; Snaith, H.. 2001 Surface distribution of chlorophyll, particles and gelbstoff in the Atlantic jet of the Alboran Sea: from submesoscale to subinertial scales of variability. Journal of Marine Systems, 29 (1/4). 277-292.

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The surface distribution of light attenuation due to particles (c) as well as chlorophyll-a and gelbstoff fluorescence (Fch and Fcd, respectively) were recorded during an OMEGA (EU funded, MAST III project) cruise in the northwestern Alborán Sea through a high spatial (zonally separated by 10 km and virtually meridionally continuous) and temporal (about 3 days between each of the three repeated surveys made in the zone) resolution sampling design. The distributions obtained for these variables were tightly linked to the physical forcing at the different scales that the sampling design was able to resolve. Low values dominate the quasi permanent anticyclonic gyre occupying the western Alborán Sea, whereas the frontal zone directly affected by the entrance of the Atlantic jet depicts much higher records for c, Fch and Fcd. High geostrophic Froude numbers in the jet, and the subsequent increase in turbulence diffusion of nutrients towards the surface, cannot alone justify this spatial distribution. Instead, high phytoplankton concentration at the jet could also result from the entrainment and advection of water from the upwelling zone at the Spanish coast. However, T–S characteristics suggest that this is neither the most important process for the biological enrichment of the jet, so that other mechanisms such as vertical ageostrophic velocities at the edge of the gyre must also be considered. Due to the time needed for phytoplankton growth, the intense horizontal velocities associated to the jet can decouple the sectors where deep nutrient-rich waters reach the surface from sectors where high values of the recorded variables are observed. The decoupling hinders a differentiation of this fertilization mechanism from other possible alternatives as mixing at the sills in the Strait of Gibraltar. In the third survey, the spatial structure of surface warm waters in the gyre and cold waters in the front became less apparent. ADCP data show a southward migration of the jet in a fluctuation probably related to transient states in the Atlantic jet and western Alborán gyre system. The qualitative response of c, Fch and Fcd to these scales of variability was very similar and close to the changes observed in temperature. However, the values of Fcd varied in a much narrower range than c or Fch (a factor of 2 and 10, respectively), which indicates a distinct control for the abundance of Gelbstoff. This control dumps the range of variability in the western Alborán and its origin is discussed in the context of photobleaching or bacterial degradation of these substances.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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Date made live: 19 Aug 2004 +0 (UTC)

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