The Red Sea is a narrow basin with warm and highly saline water that supports a rich and diverse marine ecosystem. It is of immense ecological and commercial importance, yet little is known of a crucial oceanographic aspect— the properties of its eddies.
Eddies are clockwise or counter-clockwise circular movements of water that play a significant role in transporting heat, nutrients and organic material in the ocean. Now a KAUST and US research team shows that these marine ‘whirlpools’ are more frequent than had been supposed and that they follow a distinct seasonal pattern.
“In the Red Sea, eddies profoundly affect the social and economic lives of people living in the surrounding countries,” explains Ibrahim Hoteit from KAUST’s Division of Physical Science and Engineering. “Knowledge of how regularly these eddies occur and behave would help, for instance, improve local ocean forecasts, as well as help the coastguard undertake search-and-rescues; responses to oil spills or concentrate discharges; or marine planners to formulate conservation plans.”
To gather information on eddy properties, the KAUST researchers and colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, USA considered satellite data collected since 1992 along with numerical model simulations of the Red Sea circulation.
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