Coordinator: Dr. Nadia Pinardi

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Seasonal, INterannual and decAdal variability

of the atmosPhere, oceanS and related marIne ecosystems

April 30, 1998


Dr. Nadia Pinardi

1.1 Subprojects and Tasks 8

1.2List of Institutions and scientists involved 12

1.3Mailing list 14

1.4 TASK B.1. Experimental evidences of the climate variability 33

1.5Task B.5 Eastern Mediterranean thermohaline circulation variability 82

1.6Task C.1. Seasonal to interannual changes in the planktonic system 97

1.7TASK D.1. Collection, validation and rationalization of the existing data (data inventory) 138


3. Budget 156
  1. Preface

  2. This proposal has been written in a year and a half of discussions and meetings between most of the participanting scientists to SINAPSI. I shall thank all the people who worked very hard to write their contributions and expecially the subproject leaders who really did most of the work.

  3. I shall thank Dr. G.Bombace, President of the Istituto Nazionale di Coordinamento Scienze del Mare (ISMARE) without whom we would never have achieved this goal. It was a pleasure to work with him and get continuos support and inspiration even when it was hard to believe we could bring together our community to build a Project from scratch.

  4. A major meeting to discuss the scientific priorities of SINAPSI was organized by ISMARE at the Central CNR, September 12-14 1996. More than 40 scientists joined the discussion which posed the basis for many modifications to the first draft of SINAPSI.

  5. I think everybody would hope that SINAPSI could offer one of the proper scientific frameworks for the newly born ISMARE. SINAPSI proposes a first approach to the coordination of the research present over the Italian territory and presents an attempt to discuss forefront research topics connected to climate variability.

  6. This document was edited with the skillful help of Mr. Paolo Carini , Mrs.E. Masetti and Dr. L. Amato

  7. at IMGA-CNR.

  8. Nadia Pinardi

  9. Research scientist


  11. This document presents a proposal to study the climate system at global and regional scales in order to improve our capability to understand and predict the climate variability at seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales for the atmosphere, ocean and marine ecosystems. It proposes the funding of a project called “Seasonal, interannual and decadal variability of the atmosphere, oceans and related marine ecosystems” ( SINAPSI) which builds upon a multidisciplinary research approach to be carried out by a significant portion of the Italian climate research community. It is hoped that this will serve as a preliminary study for the enhancement of the Italian participation to European Union Programs and to the large strategic International Geosphere and Biosphere Project research goals.

  12. The proposed project will contribute to the analysis of the observed climate variability both at the global and regional scales and to the development of global and regional numerical models of the atmosphere, ocean and marine ecosystems. The project aims to stimulate the development and the utilization of state-of-the-art numerical models of the global atmosphere and ocean for the scientific, academic and operational Italian communities. It concentrates on the global atmosphere-ocean interactions and in particular on the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem dynamics. The Mediterranean is now recognized as a “climatic laboratory” where important interactions between atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere occur at high intensity and they can be used as indicators of more general fluctuations and trends . The proposed research is based upon both existing observational data sets and modeling work and the collection of new observations and development of new models in order to be able to better understand and predict the climate fluctuations at seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales.

  13. The general goals of the project are two:

  14. 1) to increase our capability to predict climate fluctuations in the atmosphere, ocean and marine ecosystems at the relevant time scales;

  15. 2) to define key climatic biogeochemical and physical parameters and key marine areas for monitoring the Mediterranean basin fluctuations in terms of the ecosystem response at the seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales.

  16. These main goals will be achieved through a number of more specific objectives, namely:

  17. 1) The understanding and simulation of the seasonal to interannual variability of the atmospheric and coupled ocean-atmosphere systems, through coupled ocean-atmosphere numerical simulations, model developments, diagnostic and theoretical studies. In particular the climate anomalies over the European sector and the Mediterranean area will be investigated;

  18. 2) The investigation of the seasonal, interannual and decadal variability of the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem structure through the collection of new observations in key areas of climatic response, the study of existing observational time series, the modeling of the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean and the numerical modeling of the general circulation variability;

  19. 3) The study of the seasonal and interannual variability of primary productivity in the Mediterranean together with the study of benthic, pelagic organism and fish stocks fluctuations through the analysis of existing observational long time series and the modeling of the response of biota to geophysical forcing variability;

  20. 4) The study of the paleoclimatic records in the terrestrial and marine ecosystems in order to detect the seasonal/interannual and decadal changes in past climatic regimes and intercompare the conceptual models of the recent and past climate variability.

  1. Introduction

  2. The study of climate variability in terrestrial and marine ecosystems at seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales has an enormous impact on the society. These studies foster the possibility of predicting: 1) the seasonal to interannual variability of the atmosphere and ocean state; 2) the coastal and open ocean primary productivity and the associated sea health status; 3) the fish population fluctuations in different ocean regions due to climate fluctuations. In view of the importance of such studies in future management of the earth ecosystem we propose here to coordinate a multidisciplinary research project which encompasses a large part of the research and educational communities present on the National territory.

  3. The present Progetto Strategico connects with and complements some of the European Union activities in the MAST and ENVIRONMENT and CLIMATE programs (MTP-I1, MATER2, DICE3, Seasonal Predictions4, EuroCLIVAR5, etc.) and it is in line with the general scope of CLIVAR6, GOALS7 and IGBP8 (especially PAGES9 and GLOBEC10). These international programs define studies of the earth ecosystem which through observations, modeling and analysis want to improve our understanding of the system in order to make possible the prediction of the climate fluctuations. In this context it partially contributes to EuroGOOS11 by continuing to develop predictive numerical models and supporting the continuos monitoring of the Italian regional Seas.

  4. The novelty of this program is that it brings together Italian scientists from different disciplines in order to contribute to the building of an Italian Climate Program. The long term scientific goal is to contribute to the better understanding of the climate variability of ocean, atmosphere and marine ecosystems at short to medium time scales. The project building blocks consist of research activities which are starting to emerge in the Italian community but which were never before coordinated nor assembled in an interdisciplinary National research framework.

  5. The study of climate variability from seasonal to interannual and decadal time scales has recently been revealed to be a crucial step toward our understanding of the climate system as a whole. It is believed that climate transitions can occur at these time scales which could affect the longer time trends in the overall ecosystem structure. On the other hand, the Mediterranean Sea area has recently been demonstrated to be a natural laboratory for climate studies (Robinson et al., 1994). The general circulation has been shown to be connected to the major atmospheric climate fluctuations and to respond very rapidly to these changes. Moreover, it is evident that the Mediterranean has a potential to become a prototype basin for studying the climate fluctuations in the marine ecosystem. The Mediterranean is an example of a limited extension open ocean basin with thermohaline circulation similar to the North Atlantic and with prevailing oligotrophic conditions similar to other open ocean ecosystems at middle latitudes. Paleoclimatic records in the Mediterranean area can be analyzed to extract short term climate fluctuations during past climate regimes at unprecedented accuracy. There will be the possibility of studying multi-proxy data on paleoclimatic records of the Mediterranean area and relate them to changes in atmosphere and marine biochemical and physical parameters over the past 20000 years during large climate transitions.

  6. Before TOGA12, even the regular progression of seasons was not well described over much of the oceans. Before POEM13(started at the same time of TOGA but in the Eastern Mediterranean) even in the Mediterranean not much was known about seasonal and interannual variations of the physical components of the ecosystem. At the same time, CZCS14 data become available, making possible the first study of the upper ocean chlorophyll seasonal fluctuations, giving indications of global primary productivity cycles. Now, ten years after these programs and instruments have started to collect data, numerical and theoretical models are in progress both for the ocean-atmosphere system and for the marine ecosystem so that it is possible to think toward climate predictions at seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales.

  7. Particular attention is given in this Project to the very recent discovery that the Eastern Mediterranean Deep Waters have totally changed in only ten years (Roether et al., 1996), probably due to a combination of the interannual atmospheric forcing over the basin and the non-linear behavior of the internal thermohaline circulation modified by long term trends. These changes are recorded in the sediment temperatures (Della Vedova et al., 1995) and perhaps in the benthic ecosystem, as well as in the biogeochemical fluxes throughout the water column. Two major experimental Tasks are set in this Project which will contribute substantially to the analysis and understanding of this climate event occurred at unprecedented magnitude in our modern instrument era.

  8. An intermediate goal of this Project is to organize four interdisciplinary thematic working groups in order to synthesize the knowledge and elaborate new approaches in the context of climate variability issues. The following research topics are seen as priorities:

  9. 1)The Eastern Mediterranean climatic event and its evolution. Possible future climatic scenarios.

  10. 2)Where is the Mediterranean ecosystem climate going toward?

  11. 3)The transfer functions of the climate system : Mediterranean examples.

  12. 4)A long term climate monitoring station in the Mediterranean Sea: feasibility study.

  13. SINAPSI has organized a Scientific Steering Committee Group encompassing representatives of the scientific Tasks and CNR Institutional Committees, such as the Istituto Nazionale di Coordinamento Scienze del Mare (ISMARE) and the Comitati. It is hoped that this effort will enhance the visibility of the Italian climate research groups in larger International Climate Programs. The understanding and prediction of climate variability is the ultimate goal of SINAPSI which will be reached only if the research will be interdisciplinary and there will be development of collaborative partnerships with international Programs on climate variability.


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