More than 120 satellite-tracked drifters were deployed in the northern and middle Adriatic (NMA) Sea between September 2002 and November 2003, with the purpose of studying the surface circulation at mesoscale to seasonal scale in relation to wind forcing, river runoff, and bottom topography. Pseudo-Eulerian and Lagrangian statistics were calculated from the low-pass-filtered drifter velocity data between September 2002 and December 2003. The structure of the mean circulation is determined with unprecedented high horizontal resolution by the new data. In particular, mean currents, velocity variance, and kinetic energy levels are shown to be maximal in the Western Adriatic Current (WAC). Separating data into seasons, we found that the mean kinetic energy is maximal in fall, with high values also in winter, while it is significantly weaker in summer. High-resolution Local Area Model Italy winds were used to relate the drifter velocities to the wind fields. The surface currents appear to be significantly influenced by the winds. The mean flow during the northeasterly bora regime shows an intensification of the across-basin recirculating currents. In addition, the WAC is strongly intensified both in intensity and in its offshore lateral extension. In the southeasterly sirocco regime, northward flow without recirculation dominates in the eastern half of the basin, while during northwesterly maestro the WAC is enhanced. Separating the data into low and high Po River discharge rates for low-wind conditions shows that the WAC and the velocity fluctuations in front of the Po delta are stronger for high Po River runoff. Lagrangian covariance, diffusivity, and integral time and space scales are larger in the along-basin direction and are maximal in the southern portion of the WAC. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Surface drifter derived circulation in the northern and middle Adriatic Sea: Response to wind regime and season