Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 2 (2010)

Climatology and reconstruction of runoff time series in northwest Iberia: influence in the shelf buoyancy budget off Ría de Vigo

Pablo Otero
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Spain

Manuel Ruiz-Villarreal
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Spain

Álvaro Peliz
Instituto de Oceanografía, Fac. Ciências Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

José Manuel Cabanas
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Spain


River runoff off northwest Iberia generates a low-density buoyant structure with a strong influence on shelf and coastal circulation. This study estimates the runoff to the shelf of the ten largest rivers in the region based on the furthest downstream gauge records available, and also takes into account the basin area downstream from the station (22% of the basin area for the entire study region). Monthly statistics were computed to obtain mean values for each river to cover the recurrent lack of runoff data in the region. In order to reconstruct gaps in the time series on a daily scale, a method based on the observed discharge of a nearby river basin was used. In addition, the influence of runoff on the shelf was analyzed using monthly CTD data sampled during a 12-year period in the Ría de Vigo and the adjacent shelf. The CTD series shows the existence of a buoyant structure with maximum growth during winter and with large variability of its thermal anomaly. The salinity anomaly correlated significantly with mean winter monthly values of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index. This atmospheric index integrates both the influence of precipitation —and therefore runoff— and the predominant winds during winter that contribute to the accumulation of fresh water over the shelf.


runoff; river plumes; buoyant flux; climatology; Ría de Vigo; Iberia

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