Integral measurements of mass transport and heat content in the Strait of Gibraltar from acoustic transmissions

U. Send, P.F. Worcester, B.D. Cornuelle, C.O. Tiemann, and B. Baschek

Deep-Sea Research Part II - Topical Studies in Oceanography 49 (19), pp. 4069-4095, 2002

Three 2 kHz acoustic transceivers were deployed on either side of the eastern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar during April-May 1996 to determine the feasibility of using acoustic methods to make routine, rapidly repeated, horizontally integrated measurements of flow and temperature in straits. Reciprocal transmissions between the transceivers were used to test the feasibility of using traditional ray differential travel times to monitor the component of flow along the acoustic paths. Transmissions directly across the Strait were used to test the feasibility of using horizontal arrival angle fluctuations and acoustic intensity scintillations to monitor the flow perpendicular to the acoustic path. The geometry was selected to provide ray paths that only sample the lower-layer Mediterranean water, so that the feasibility of monitoring the Mediterranean outflow using the various methods could be evaluated. The acoustic scintillation method did not yield useful current estimates, but the experimental parameters were not optimized for this approach. Since the low-frequency variability in log-amplitude was found to be highly correlated at receivers 228 m apart, it is possible that acoustic scintillation measurements using different receiver spacings and more rapid sampling might yield better results. The horizontal deflection method gave encouraging results at the time of neap tides, but less so during spring tides. For this approach, both theoretical estimates and measured phase differences between the horizontally separated receivers suggest that internal-wave-induced horizontal arrival angle fluctuations may fundamentally limit the precision with which arrival angles can be measured. Further work is needed to determine if a smaller horizontal spacing and higher signal-to-noise ratios would yield better results. Reciprocal travel time measurements diagonally across the Strait performed the best of the three methods, giving absolute flow estimates consistent with those derived from current-meter data. The fractional uncertainty variance for the lower layer tidal transport from a single tomographic path was estimated to be 0.017 (i.e. 98% of the a priori tidal transport variance was resolved). The spatial scales of the sub-tidal flow are thought to be significantly shorter than those of the tidal flow, however, which means that a more elaborate monitoring network is required to achieve the same performance for sub-tidal variability. Finally, sum travel times from the reciprocal transmissions were found to provide good measurements of the temperature and heat content in the lower layer. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.