Analysis of a 44-year hindcast for the Mediterranean Sea: comparison with altimetry and in situ observations


  • Enrique Vidal-Vijande Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC-UIB)
  • Ananda Pascual Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC-UIB)
  • Bernard Barnier LEGI
  • Jean-Marc Molines LEGI
  • Joaquín Tintoré Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC-UIB)



sea level, altimetry, temperature, salinity, modelling, Mediterranean Sea


We study the interannual and seasonal variability in the Mediterranean Sea over the period 1958-2004 by comparing a numerical simulation (the 1/4º ORCA-R025 G70 model run, ‘ORCA’ hereafter) with altimetry and the MEDAR temperature and salinity database. The model is forced by the ERA40 atmospheric forcing and has a salinity restoring term applied at surface. Comparing temperature between ORCA and MEDAR shows good interannual variability agreement (correlations of ~0.8 in the western Mediterranean and ~0.5 in the eastern Mediterranean) at surface layers (0-150 m), but slightly higher mean values in the model (0.08-0.16°C). The salinity analysis shows that the surface salinity restoring term has obliterated most of the interannual variability. Mean surface salinities are slightly lower in the model (~0.3), replicated in deeper layers to a lesser degree, and could mean that the restoring term applies insufficient evaporation to compensate for a weak atmospheric forcing (ERA40) water loss flux. The sea level analysis comparing sea surface height (SSH) and steric height from ORCA and sea level anomalies from altimetry (1993-2004) shows good correlations (~0.8) in the interannual variability and annual cycle. However, the model’s SSH overestimates (~15 mm/yr) observed positive altimetric trends (~3-4 mm/yr). In an attempt to identify the source of this overestimation, a water budget calculation was performed between the horizontal and vertical water fluxes in the Mediterranean Sea. Horizontal transport through the main straits shows appropriate values when compared to observations. Thus, the cause of the exaggerated SSH trend is probably a water flux imbalance. By improving surface salinity restoring and atmospheric forcing, the ORCA simulations can provide very promising tools for studies of interannual variability in the Mediterranean Sea.


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How to Cite

Vidal-Vijande E, Pascual A, Barnier B, Molines J-M, Tintoré J. Analysis of a 44-year hindcast for the Mediterranean Sea: comparison with altimetry and in situ observations. scimar [Internet]. 2011Mar.30 [cited 2023Dec.10];75(1):71-86. Available from:




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