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Fueling Plankton Production by a Meandering Frontal Jet: A Case Study for the Alboran Sea (Western Mediterranean)

Oguz, Temel
Macias, Diego
Garcia-Lafuente, Jesus
Pascual, Ananda
Tintore, Joaquin
A three dimensional biophysical model was employed to illustrate the biological impacts of a meandering frontal jet, in terms of efficiency and persistency of the autotrophic frontal production, in marginal and semi-enclosed seas. We used the Alboran Sea of the Western Mediterranean as a case study. Here, a frontal jet with a width of 15–20 km, characterized by the relatively low density Atlantic water mass, flows eastward within the upper 100 m as a marked meandering current around the western and the eastern anticyclonic gyres prior to its attachment to the North African shelf/slope topography of the Algerian basin. Its inherent nonlinearity leads to the development of a strong ageostrophic cross-frontal circulation that supplies nutrients into the nutrient-starved euphotic layer and stimulates phytoplankton growth along the jet. Biological production is larger in the western part of the basin and decreases eastwards with the gradual weakening of the jet. The higher production at the subsurface levels suggests that the Alboran Sea is likely more productive than predicted by the satellite chlorophyll data. The Mediterranean water mass away from the jet and the interiors of the western and eastern anticyclonic gyres remain unproductive.