A High Resolution Hydrodynamic 3D Model Simulation of the Malta Shelf Area


A.F. Drago, R. Sorgente and A.Ribotti


In Annales Geophysicae (2002) 20: 1–22


The seasonal variability of the water masses and transport in the Malta Channel and proximity of the Maltese Islands have been simulated by a high resolution (1.6 km horizontal grid on average, 15 vertical sigma layers) eddy resolving primitive equation shelf model (ROSARIO-I). The numerical simulation was run with climatological forcing and includes thermohaline dynamics with a turbulence scheme for the vertical mixing coefficients on the basis of the Princeton Ocean Model (POM). The model has been coupled by one-way nesting along three lateral boundaries (east, south and west) to an intermediate coarser resolution model (5 km) implemented over the Sicilian Channel area. The fields at the open boundaries and the atmospheric forcing at the air-sea interface were applied on a repeating “perpetual” year climatological cycle.


The ability of the model to reproduce a realistic circulation of the Sicilian-Maltese shelf area has been demonstrated. The skill of the nesting procedure was tested by model-model comparisons showing that the major features of the coarse model flow field can be reproduced by the fine model with additional eddy space scale components. The numerical results included upwelling, mainly in summer and early autumn along the southern coasts of Sicily and Malta; a strong eastward shelf surface flowalong shore to Sicily forming part of the Atlantic Ionian Stream, with a presence throughout the year and with significant seasonal modulation, and a westward winter intensified flow of LIW centered at a depth of around 280m under the shelf break to the south of Malta. The seasonal variability in the thermohaline structure of the domain and the associated large-scale flow structures can be related to the current knowledge on the observed hydrography of the area. The level of mesoscale resolution achieved by the model allowed the spatial and temporal evolution of the changing flow patterns, triggered by internal dynamics to be followed in detail.


This modelling effort has initiated the treatment of the open boundary conditions problem in view of the future implementation of shelf-scale real-time ocean forecasting through the sequential nesting of a hierarchy of successively embedded model domains for the downscaling of the hydrodynamics from the coarse grid Ocean General Circulation Model of the whole Mediterranean Sea to finer grids in coastal areas.