Scientia Marina, Vol 69, No S1 (2005)

Circulation in the Mediterranean Sea: evidences, debates and unanswered questions

Claude Millot
Laboratoire d’Océanographie et de Biogéochimie, Antenne LOB-COM-CNRS, France


The overall counterclockwise alongslope circulation of Atlantic Water (AW) in the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea is now generally accepted. As the eastern basin displays similar general features, why is it generally assumed to function in a different way, and why is AW now said to circulate across the interior of the eastern basin? Relatively huge mesoscale anticyclonic eddies induced by the instability of the AW circulation in the south of the western basin have lifetimes up to several years. It is possible that they extend down to the sea bottom and play a major role in the distribution of all water masses. Why have apparently similar eddies generated in the eastern basin never received specific attention? Once formed, Mediterranean Waters (MWs) must spread and circulate before outflowing. Why have simple dynamical arguments for understanding the circulation of AW, such as the Coriolis effect, rarely been considered for the circulation of MWs? In this paper we address these major aspects of water circulation in the Mediterranean Sea. In order to be as objective and convincing as possible, and to write a paper that can be understood by as broad a readership as possible, we have chosen to present only raw data sets that can be easily interpreted by the reader without any help from the author. Based on the evidence provided by these data sets, we specify the current debates and list what we think are the main unanswered questions.


Mediterranean Sea; overall circulation; mesoscale; processes

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