An Oceanic General Circulation Model (OGCM) investigation of the Red Sea circulation, 1. Exchange between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean

Sarantis S. Sofianos, William E. Johns

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71 Scopus citations


The mechanisms involved in the seasonal exchange between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean are studied using an Oceanic General Circulation Model (OGCM), namely the Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model (MICOM). The model reproduces the basic characteristics of the seasonal circulation observed in the area of the strait of Bab el Mandeb. There is good agreement between model results and available observations on the strength of the exchange and the characteristics of the water masses involved, as well as the seasonal flow pattern. During winter, this flow consits of a typical inverse estuarine circulation, while during summer, the surface flow reverses, there is an intermediate inflow of relatively cold and fresh water, and the hypersaline outflow at the bottom of the strait is significantly reduced. Additional experiments with different atmospheric forcing (seasonal winds, seasonal thermohaline air-sea fluxes, or combinations) were performed in order to assess the role of the atmospheric forcing fields in the exchange flow at Bab el Mandeb. The results of both the wind- and thermohaline-driven experiments exhibit a strong seasonality at the area of the strait, which is in phase with the observations. However, it is the combination of both the seasonal pattern of the wind stress and the seasonal thermohaline forcing that can reproduce the observed seasonal variability at the strait. The importance of the seasonal cycle of the thermohaline forcing on the exchange flow pattern is also emphasized by these results. In the experiment where the thermohaline forcing is represented by its annual mean, the strength of the exchange is reduced almost by half.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-1 - 17-11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 15 2002


  • Exchange flow
  • Marginal sea
  • Red Sea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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