Related Research Areas
Water & Energy Cycles

The Mediterranean Sea is noted for behaving as a “concentration basin:”, meaning that it exhibits positive evaporation minus surface precipitation (E - P) properties throughout the four seasons and from one year to the next (where the brackets indicate some type of space-time average). Nonetheless, according to the ECMWF Era-40 48-year (1958-2005) climate reanalysis dataset, for various phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) when the pressure gradient between Portugal and Iceland becomes either very relaxed (large negative NAO-Index) or in transition (small positive or negative NAO-Index), the atmospheric moisture source properties of the basin become weak, at times even reversed for several months. These conditions denote negative (E - P) behavior, thus the conditions for a more conventional “dilution basin”. Such behavior poses numerous questions concerning how and why these events occur. Moreover, it begs the question of what it would take for the basin to reach its tipping point in which (P) would exceed (E) throughout the rainy season (some six months) on an annually persistent basis -- and the Mediterranean Sea would transform to a recurring “dilution basin”. This proposal investigates some of these questions by: (1) establishing over a period from 1979 to present, based on detailed analyses of satellite retrieved data products from a combination of Earth observing satellite platforms, plus additional specialized data products, (2) diagnosing the salient physical and meteorological mechanisms that lead to the weaker E - P events, (3) determining the climate state under which meteorological background conditions could maintain the Mediterranean Sea as a “dilution basin” throughout the rainy season on an annually recurring basis, and (4) investigating how such conditions might modify important internal and external climatic processes known to be closely related to the dynamic, thermodynamic, and hydrologic properties of the Mediterranean basin, for example (a) drought frequency over Iberian peninsula, (b) rainfall accumulation within African Sahel, (c) alteration of the Levantine branch of the east-west aligned open thermohaline cell, and (d) modification of warm and salty intermediate flow through Gibraltar straight.

Project PI: Eric A. Smith/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center



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Started: Aug 10, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 16, 2010


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