Direct observations of seasonal exchange through the Bab el Mandab Strait

Stephen P. Murray, William Johns

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137 Scopus citations


The exchange flow between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden-Indian Ocean through the Bab el Mandab Strait was measured continuously for 10 months, June 1995-March 1996. ADCP and temperature-salinity chain moorings allow an unprecedented look at the magnitude and seasonal evolution of the inflow layer from the Gulf of Aden, and the high salinity outflow layer from the Red Sea. The timing, structure, and evolution of the summer season mid-depth intrusion of cold, low salinity water into the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden is measured for the complete intrusion cycle of 1995. We unexpectedly find the deep outflow still strong in June 1995, with speeds of 0.6 m/sec and transport of 0.4 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3/sec). From July to mid-September, the deep outflow persists but is attenuated to speeds of 0.2 m/sec and transport of 0.05 Sv. The dominant summer feature, the cold low salinity intermediate layer intrusion, persists for 3 months, occupies 70% of the water column in the Strait and carries approximately 1.7 × 1012 m3 of cold nutrient-rich water into the Red Sea. The winter regime begins in mid-September, is fully developed by early November, and continues to the end of our first observation interval in March 1996. Speeds in the lower layer are 0.8-1.0 m/sec and 0.4-0.6 m/sec in the upper layer. At maximum exchange in mid-February, outflow transport reaches 0.7 Sv. Ubiquitous oscillations in current and salinity at synoptic and intraseasonal periods appear closely related to fluctuations in the along-channel wind forcing and perhaps to coastally-trapped waves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number97GL02741
Pages (from-to)2557-2560
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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