Rapid red sea deep water renewals caused by volcanic eruptions and the north atlantic oscillation

Fengchao Yao*, Ibrahim Hoteit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The Red Sea hosts a deep marine environment unique among the world’s oceans. It is occupied, almost homogeneously from the subsurface (~137 to 300 m) to depths over 2000 m, by a warm (~21.5°C) and highly saline (~40.5) water mass, referred to as the Red Sea Deep Water (RSDW). Previous studies suggested that the RSDW is mainly ventilated, continuously or intermittently, by dense outflows from the northern Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba with a resulting sluggish renewal time on the order of 36 to 90 years. We use six repeated hydrographic observations spanning the period 1982–2011 and simulations of an ocean general circulation model with realistic atmospheric forcing to show that large portions of the RSDW were episodically replaced during 1982–2001 by new dense waters mainly formed by open-ocean deep convections in the northern Red Sea during anomalously cold winters, pointing to a much shorter renewal time for the RSDW on the order of a decade. We further show that the winter cooling anomaly in the Red Sea region was a part of a large-scale climate variability pattern associated with either large volcanic eruptions or the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Consequently, significant deep water formation events occurred in the Red Sea in the winters following the 1982 El Chichón eruption in Mexico and the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines and during the strong positive phase of the NAO in the winter of 1989.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaar5637
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 27 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank I. Cerovecki for very helpful comments on the draft of the manuscript. The 2001 and 2011 hydrographic data were provided by S. Sofianos and A. Bower, respectively This study was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Saudi Aramco through the Saudi Aramco-KAUST Center for Marine Environmental Observations, and the computing resources were provided by the KAUST Supercomputing Laboratory.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 The Authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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