Properties, Mechanisms and Predictability of Eddies in the Red Sea

  • Peng Zhan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Eddies are one of the key features of the Red Sea circulation. They are not only crucial for energy conversion among dynamics at different scales, but also for materials transport across the basin. This thesis focuses on studying the characteristics of Red Sea eddies, including their temporal and spatial properties, their energy budget, the mechanisms of their evolution, and their predictability. Remote sensing data, in-situ observations, the oceanic general circulation model, and data assimilation techniques were employed in this thesis. The eddies in the Red Sea were first identified using altimeter data by applying an improved winding-angle method, based on which the statistical properties of those eddies were derived. The results suggested that eddies occur more frequently in the central basin of the Red Sea and exhibit a significant seasonal variation. The mechanisms of the eddies’ evolution, particularly the eddy kinetic energy budget, were then investigated based on the outputs of a long-term eddy resolving numerical model configured for the Red Sea with realistic forcing. Examination of the energy budget revealed that the eddies acquire the vast majority of kinetic energy through conversion of eddy available potential energy via baroclinic instability, which is intensified during winter. The possible factors modulating the behavior of the several observed eddies in the Red Sea were then revealed by conducting a sensitivity analysis using the adjoint model. These eddies were found to exhibit different sensitivities to external forcings, suggesting different mechanisms for their evolution. This is the first known adjoint sensitivity study on specific eddy events in the Red Sea and was hitherto not previously appreciated. The last chapter examines the predictability of Red Sea eddies using an ensemble-based forecasting and assimilation system. The forecast sea surface height was used to evaluate the overall performance of the short-term eddy predictability. Different ensemble sampling schemes were implemented, and the investigation among different schemes is followed by a discussion of performance and challenges based on the results of a case study. The thesis not only enhances understanding of the Red Sea dynamics, but also deepens knowledge of the physical-biological and air-sea interactions within the basin. Further, it is a stepping stone to building a robust regional operational system with refined forecasting skills.
Date of AwardApr 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorIbrahim Hoteit (Supervisor)


  • Red Sea
  • Eddy
  • assimitalion
  • adjoints
  • energy
  • Predictability

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