Thick bottom nepheloid layers in the western Mediterranean generated by deep dense shelf water cascading

Pere Puig, Xavier Durrieu De Madron, Jordi Salat, Katrin Schroeder, Jacobo Martin, Aristomenis P. Karageorgis, Albert Palanques, Francois Roullier, Jose Luis Lopez-jurado, Mikhail Emelianov, Thierry Moutin, Loic Houpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


The analysis of a compilation of deep CTD casts conducted in the western Mediterranean from 1998 to 2011 has documented the role that dense water formation, and particularly deep dense shelf water cascading off the Gulf of Lions, plays in transporting suspended particulate matter from the coastal regions down to the basin. Deep CTD casts reveal that after the 1999 and 2005–2006 deep cascading events the Western Mediterranean Deep Water (WMDW) was characterized by the presence of a thick bottom nepheloid layer (BNL) that corresponded in thickness with a thermohaline anomaly generated by the mixture of dense waters formed by deep convection in the open sea and by deep cascading. This BNL can be hundreds of meters thick and in the central part of the basin usually exhibits suspended sediment concentrations of <0.1 mg/l above background levels, reaching higher concentrations close to the continental rise, with near-bottom peaks >1 mg/l. After winter 1999 the BNL spread from the Gulf of Lions and the Catalan margin over the northwestern Mediterranean basin, reaching west of the Balearic Islands and the Ligurian Sea, while after winters 2005–2006 the BNL covered the entire western Mediterranean basin. Thickness and concentration of the BNL tend to diminish with time but this trend is highly dependent on the volume of dense water generated, both by convection and cascading. After winter 1999 the BNL signal vanished in one year, but after winters 2005–2006 it lasted for longer and the turbidity signal can still be distinguished at present (2011). Particle size distribution in the BNL reveals the presence of large aggregates up to 1 mm in size formed by a mixture of single particles with the same bimodal grain size distribution as the surface sediments found in the northwestern Mediterranean slope and basin. Results presented in this paper highlight the fact that the WMDW can be periodically affected by the arrival of new dense waters loaded with suspended particles mainly introduced by resuspension processes during major cascading events, being a key process that could ultimately affect deep-sea biogeochemical cycles in the western Mediterranean.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Early online date17 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013


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