Mar Pollut Bull. 2023 Dec 16;198:115743. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.115743. Online ahead of print.
This study aims at characterizing the hydrodynamic context and transport patterns that prevailed during the MERITE-HIPPOCAMPE cruise to assist in the interpretation of in-situ observations. The main physical attributes and structures (mesoscale eddies as well as fine-scale fronts and filaments) are analyzed based on various physical diagnostics. They were computed from satellite data and data-assimilative model outputs to describe ocean dynamics. The Northern and Algerian Currents were prominent features during the cruise while the western basin is divided by the vertically-tilted Balearic front. Temperature and salinity were used to distinguish different water masses at both surface and sub-surface. Sea-level anomalies, relative vorticity, and Okubo-Weiss parameter distributions have shown the presence of marked eddies around stations St10 and St11. Furthermore, Finite-Size Lyaponuv Exponents revealed that the former was rather located on a fine-scale filament near the edge of a cyclonic eddy while the latter was closer to the core of an anticyclone. Nearshore thermal fronts were detected with the Belkin and O’Reilly Algorithm (BOA), especially around stations St17 and St19. The potential coastal sources of contaminants were tested using Lagrangian Origin Maps (LOM), suggesting that stations St1, St2, St4, St11, and St15 were most likely influenced by coastal waters. Additionally, an atmospheric reanalysis combined with a Lagrangian dispersal model allowed for estimating wet deposition events of contaminants while tracking the fate of water masses where rainfall took place. Finally, we provide a set of explanatory quantitative and qualitative variables for future statistical analyses that aim at explaining the distribution of both chemical and biological samples collected during the cruise.