The impact of climate variability on the physical properties of the Black Sea for the period 1971 – 2001
Korkmaz, Muhteşem Akif
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Deep ventilation of the Black Sea is inhibited by a sharp salinity gradient within the upper water column, resulting in a shallow anoxic interface at around 100 – 200 m depth. Understanding biological and chemical processes within the boundary region between oxic and anoxic waters is fundamental to comprehend the biogeochemical response of the Black Sea to climate forcing. The structure and depth of the chemocline is largely determined by the physical processes which transport surface waters to depth. Here we investigate how the structure and stability of the upper water column responds to changes in climatic forcing over interannual to multidecadal time-scales. We report results from two hydrodynamic model reanalysis. The first, extending from 1971-1993 assimilates CTD data. The second, extending from 1992-2001, assimilates altimetry data. Model results are validated against CTD and satellite data and consistency between modeled surface properties and observations is demonstrated. A problem with the data assimilation scheme of the 1992 -2001 model run is identified, which results in model drift and an unrealistic water column structure at intermediate depths. Model results indicate a warming trend of 0.7 °C in sea surface temperature and a freshening trend of 0.4 in sea surface salinity between 1971 and 2001, with an associated increasing trend in the stability of the seasonal thermocline and a declining trend in surface mixed layer depth of 6.3 m. Trends are superimposed on a distinct multiannual variability characterized by relatively warm and saline conditions between 1971 and 1984, relatively cool and fresh conditions between 1985 and 1993 and warm and fresh conditions post-1993. The period between 1985 and 1993 corresponds to higher NAO and EA/WR index values although these indices do not exhibit a similar ~decadal scale variability. Higher frequency interannual variability in water column characteristics is related to the NAO and EA/WR atmospheric indices. Despite the cool conditions prevalent during the 1990s, the persistent freshening trend caused a reduction in the density of mixed layer waters throughout the study period. A positive feedback is proposed between increasing SSTs, reduced vertical mixing and freshening of the surface layer which further increases the stability of the upper water column. CIL characteristics typically mirrored surface temperature characteristics and varied considerably between the relatively warm period during the early part of the study and the subsequent cool period. The mean thickness and temperature of the CIL between 1971 and 1981 were ~39 m and ~7.5 °C respectively, as compared to ~47 m and ~7.4 °C between 1982 and 1993. Freshening of the upper water column also resulted in an increase in the stability maxima that exists at the base of the CIL, suggesting reduced ventilation of the upper water column during winter.