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Buffett, G. G., G. Krahmann, D. Klaeschen, K. Schroeder, V. Sallarès, C. Papenberg, C. R. Ranero, and N. Zitellini (2017), Seismic Oceanography in the Tyrrhenian Sea: Thermohaline Staircases, Eddies, and Internal Waves, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 122(11), 8503-8523, doi: 10.1002/2017JC012726.


We use seismic oceanography to document and analyze oceanic thermohaline fine structure across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection data were acquired during the MEDiterranean OCcidental survey in April–May 2010. We deployed along-track expendable bathythermograph probes simultaneous with MCS acquisition. At nearby locations we gathered conductivity-temperature-depth data. An autonomous glider survey added in situ measurements of oceanic properties. The seismic reflectivity clearly delineates thermohaline fine structure in the upper 2,000 m of the water column, indicating the interfaces between Atlantic Water/Winter Intermediate Water, Levantine Intermediate Water, and Tyrrhenian Deep Water. We observe the Northern Tyrrhenian Anticyclone, a near-surface mesoscale eddy, plus laterally and vertically extensive thermohaline staircases. Using MCS, we are able to fully image the anticyclone to a depth of 800 m and to confirm the horizontal continuity of the thermohaline staircases of more than 200 km. The staircases show the clearest step-like gradients in the center of the basin while they become more diffuse toward the periphery and bottom, where impedance gradients become too small to be detected by MCS. We quantify the internal wave field and find it to be weak in the region of the eddy and in the center of the staircases, while it is stronger near the coastlines. Our results indicate this is because of the influence of the boundary currents, which disrupt the formation of staircases by preventing diffusive convection. In the interior of the basin, the staircases are clearer and the internal wave field weaker, suggesting that other mixing processes such as double diffusion prevail.

Reference article

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