An Oceanic General Circulation Model (OGCM) investigation of the red sea circulation: 2. Three-dimensional circulation in the Red Sea

Sarantis S. Sofianos, William E. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


The three-dimensional circulation of the Red Sea is studied using a set of Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model (MICOM) simulations. The model performance is tested against the few available observations in the basin and shows generally good agreement with the main observed features of the circulation. The main findings of this analysis include an intensification of the along-axis flow toward the coasts, with a transition from western intensified boundary flow in the south to eastern intensified flow in the north, and a series of strong seasonal or permanent eddy-like features. Model experiments conducted with different forcing fields (wind-stress forcing only, surface buoyancy forcing only, or both forcings combined) showed that the circulation produced by the buoyancy forcing is stronger overall and dominates the wind-driven part of the circulation. The main circulation pattern is related to the seasonal buoyancy flux (mostly due to the evaporation), which causes the density to increase northward in the basin and produces a northward surface pressure gradient associated with the downward sloping of the sea surface. The response of the eastern boundary to the associated mean cross-basin geostrophic current depends on the stratification and β-effect. In the northern part of the basin this results in an eastward intensification of the northward surface flow associated with the presence of Kelvin waves while in the south the traditional westward intensification due to Rossby waves takes place. The most prominent gyre circulation pattern occurs in the north where a permanent cyclonic gyre is present that is involved in the formation of Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW). Beneath the surface boundary currents are similarly intensified southward undercurrents that carry the RSOW to the sill to flow out of the basin into the Indian Ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-1 - 11-15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 15 2003


  • Marginal sea
  • Oceanic General Circulation Model
  • Red Sea
  • Water mass formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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