The Mediterranean is considered to behave like a small ocean, in the sense that its geographical, morphological and hydrological characteristics allow several oceanographic processes, found at large scale in the major oceans, to occur also there on a reduced scale. A key example is the wintertime formation of dense water, mainly in the Gulf of Lyons and the Adriatic and Cretan Seas, through interaction with the atmosphere, and further sinking by convection or cascading. From the 1960s, the dense water formation processes were studied in both Eastern and Western Mediterranean basins, giving rise to various hypotheses and models for the complex mechanisms taking place, and pushing the oceanographic community
to monitor and characterise the different water masses involved. These studies have confirmed that the Mediterranean Sea is a very vulnerable system that may easily switch to irreversible states that may alter its dynamics and permanently impact its ecosystem.
Some components of the deep waters nature and behaviour are still quite obscure to our knowledge, as the spreading paths and forcings, their full chemical characterisation, or the origin of intense transformations that may occur at several years scale. The Eastern Mediterranean Transient in the late ‘80s was a major example that led to a new regime of warmer and saltier intermediate and deep waters that now seem to have impacted the Western basin.
CIESM, supports a network of several thousand marine researchers, applying the latest scientific tools to better understand, monitor and protect a fast-changing, highly impacted Mediterranean Sea. This Commission runs expert workshops, collaborative programs and regular congresses, delivering authoritative, independent advice to national and international agencies. The Commission in Malta is represented by Prof. Aldo Drago, Director of the IOI-Malta Operational Centre.
A monograph of proceedings will follow as a good compilation of the ideas, analysis and proposals for future research. Visit the CIESM website at http://www.ciesm.org