Marine Science Faculty Publications

Thermocline Characterisation in the Cariaco Basin: a Modelling Study of the Thermocline Annual Variation and Its Relation with Winds and Chlorophyll-A Concentration

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cariaco basin, hydrodynamic model, model validation, thermocline depth, upwelling

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The spatial and temporal evolution of the thermocline depth and width of the Cariaco basin (Venezuela) is analysed by means of a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model. The thermocline depth and width are determined through the fitting of model temperature profiles to a sigmoid function. The use of whole profiles for the fitting allows for a robust estimation of the thermocline characteristics, mainly width and depth. The fitting method is compared to the maximum gradient approach, and it is shown that, under some circumstances, the method presented in this work leads to a better characterisation of the thermocline. After assessing, through comparison with independent in situ data, the model capabilities to reproduce the Cariaco basin thermocline, the seasonal variability of this variable is analysed, and the relationship between the annual cycle of the thermocline depth, the wind field and the distribution of chlorophyll-a concentration in the basin is studied. The interior of the basin reacts to easterly winds intensification with a rising of the thermocline, resulting in a coastal upwelling response, with the consequent increase in chlorophyll-a concentration. Outside the Cariaco basin, where an open ocean, oligothrophic regime predominates, wind intensification increases mixing of the surface layers and induces therefore a deepening of the thermocline. The seasonal cycle of the thermocline variability in the Cariaco basin is therefore related to changes in the wind field. At shorter time scales (i.e. days), it is shown that other processes, such as the influence of the meandering Caribbean current, can also influence the thermocline variability. The model thermocline depth is shown to be in good agreement with the two main ventilation events that took place in the basin during the period of the simulation.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Continental Shelf Research, v. 31, issue 1, p. 73-84