Chains of marine vortices have been discovered for the first time in the eastern Mediterranean by an Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare [INFN] neutrino research project. This unexpected observation, which is relevant to studies of climate change in the Mediterranean Sea, is described in a paper published in the online journal Nature Communications last monthi.
The vortices were uncovered by the Neutrino Mediterranean Observatory [NEMO] project, which measures, on the sea bed, the presence of high-energy neutrinos arriving from space. Oceanographic sensors – used with these neutrino studies – were placed in the Ionian Sea to record annual changes in ocean currents and temperatures.
Analysis of measurements from this devices – undertaken by University of Ca’ Foscari student Angelo Rubino and his colleagues – revealed the existence of these moving bodies of water, which measure around 10 km in diameter, and move at around 3 centimetres per second.
Such vortices are not expected to be present in closed basins like the Mediterranean. This result opens up further discussions on the nature of the water masses in the eastern part of the sea.
Vortices are not the first unexpected observation from NEMO. In 2007, hydrophone measurements taken 2000 metres below the sea near Catania revealed the presence of nearby sperm whales – creatures that were commonly not believed to inhabit that area of the sea.
- Rubino, A. (2012-5-15) Abyssal undular vortices in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. Nature Communications, C12032. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1836 [↩]