Experimental evidence of long-term oceanic circulation reversals without wind influence in the North Ionian Sea

Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 5;10(1):1905. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57862-6.


Under the emerging features of interannual-to-decadal ocean variability, the periodical reversals of the North Ionian Gyre (NIG), driven mostly by the mechanism named Adriatic-Ionian Bimodal Oscillating System (BiOS), are known as impacting on marine physics and biogeochemistry and potentially influencing short-term regional climate predictability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Whilst it has been suggested that local wind forcing cannot explain such variability, aspects of the alternative hypothesis indicating that NIG reversals mainly arises from an internal ocean feedback mechanism alone remain largely debated. Here we demonstrate, using the results of physical experiments, performed in the world's largest rotating tank and numerical simulations, that the main observed feature of BiOS, i.e., the switch of polarity of the near-surface circulation in the NIG, can be induced by a mere injection of dense water on a sloping bottom. Hence, BiOS is a truly oceanic mode of variability and abrupt polarity changes in circulation can arise solely from extreme dense water formation events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't