Physical processes in the transition zone between North Sea and Baltic Sea. Numerical simulations and observations


The dynamics in the transition zone between the North Sea and Baltic Sea are analyzed here using data from a 22-year-long climatic simulation with a focus on the periods 1992–1994 and 2001–2003 when two recent major inflow events occurred. Observations from gauges and in situ measurements are used to validate the model. Parameters, which cannot be easily measured, such as water and salt transports through straits, have been compared against similar previous estimates. The good performance of simulations is attributed to the finer resolution of the model compared to earlier set ups. The outflow in the Kattegat, which is an analogue of the tidal outflows, tends to propagate to the North over the shallows without showing a substantial deflection to the right due to the Earth's rotation. The inflow follows the topography. The different inflow and outflow pathways are explained as a consequence of the specific combination of bathymetry, axial and lateral processes. The circulation in Kattegat is persistently clockwise with an eastern intensification during inflow and a western one during outflow regimes. The tidal wave there propagates as Kelvin wave, keeping the coast on its right. The flows in the two main straits reveal very different responses to tides, which are also highly asymmetric during inflow and outflow conditions. The circulation has a typical two-layer structure, the correlation between salinity and velocity tends to increase the salt transport in the salinity conveyor belt. The transversal circulation in the entrance of the Sound enhances the vertical mixing of the saltier North Sea water. The long-term averaged ratio of the water transports through the Great Belt and the Sound is ∼2.6-2.7 but this number changes reaching lower values during the major inflow in 1993. The transports in the straits are asymmetric. During inflow events the repartition of water penetrating the Baltic Sea is strongly in favor of the pathway through the Sound, which provides a shorter connection between the Kattegat and Baltic proper. The wider Great Belt has a relatively larger role in exporting water from the Baltic into the North Sea. A demonstration is given that the ventilation of the Baltic Sea deep water is not only governed by the dynamics in the straits and the strong westerly winds enhancing the eastward propagation of North Sea water (a case in 1993), but also by the clockwise circulation in the Kattegat acting as a preconditioning factor for the flow-partitioning.
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