A variety of data based on hydrographic measurements, satellite observations, reanalysis databases, and meteorological observations are used to explore the interannual variability and factors governing the deep water formation in the northern Red Sea. Historical and recent hydrographic data consistently indicate that the ventilation of the near-bottom layer in the Red Sea is a robust feature of the thermohaline circulation. Dense water capable to reach the bottom layers of the Red Sea can be regularly produced mostly inside the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez. Occasionally, during colder than usual winters, deep water formation may also take place over coastal areas in the northernmost end of the open Red Sea just outside the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez. However, the origin as well as the amount of deep waters exhibit considerable interannual variability depending not only on atmospheric forcing but also on the water circulation over the northern Red Sea. Analysis of several recent winters shows that the strength of the cyclonic gyre prevailing in the northernmost part of the basin can effectively influence the sea surface temperature (SST) and intensify or moderate the winter surface cooling. Upwelling associated with periods of persistent gyre circulation lowers the SST over the northernmost part of the Red Sea and can produce colder than normal winter SST even without extreme heat loss by the sea surface. In addition, the occasional persistence of the cyclonic gyre feeds the surface layers of the northern Red Sea with nutrients, considerably increasing the phytoplankton biomass.
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King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 1924 – 2015
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