The Neogene marine sedimentary record of the Mediterranean basin is characterised by the regular occurrence of organic-rich layers or sapropels. These sapropels are known to correlate with the precession cycle: their deposition coincides with precession minima. This correlation is thought to be caused to a large extent by a precession-induced increase in the amount of freshwater reaching the Mediterranean Sea. In the literature, various sources of this extra freshwater have been identified and different mechanisms as to how this freshwater flux leads to sapropels have been proposed. In this study we investigate the effects of precession-induced changes in the freshwater budget using a regional ocean general circulation model of the Mediterranean Sea. Emphasis is on the effects at the surface and at intermediate depth. The forcing of the ocean model is adjusted to precession minimum conditions on a parameter by parameter basis. Novel to our approach is that the value of the required adjustments is taken from a global coupled climate model with which experiments have been performed for the present day (close to precession maximum) and precession minimum. With the ocean model we focus on the extent to which extra runoff from either south (specifically: the river Nile) or north and changes in net precipitation over the sea itself lead to a more stable stratification; this we judge by the associated reduction of the sea surface salinity and mixed layer depth in the regions of intermediate and deep water formation. Our main finding is that the effects of (1) increased discharge of the rivers coming from the north, and (2) the increase in net precipitation over the sea itself, are of equal or greater importance than that of increase in Nile discharge.
PT Meijer, E Tuenter. The effect of precession-induced changes in the Mediterranean freshwater budget on circulation at shallow and intermediate depth
Status: published, Journal: J. Marine Systems, Volume: 68, Year: 2007, First page: 349, Last page: 365, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2007.01.006