Water exchange through the Betic and Rifian corridors prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis: A model study
Although the present-day Mediterranean-Atlantic water exchange has been extensively studied, little is known about the dynamics of the Betic and Rifian corridors that existed before the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Due to the difficulties in studying the paleogeographic evolution of these corridors, physics-based knowledge of their behavior is essential to interpret observational evidence and to relate flow structures to gateway geometries. Here we present the first systematic model study of the water exchange through these gateways. We use the parallel version of the Princeton Ocean Model (sbPOM) and a set of idealized bathymetries based on a late Tortonian paleogeography. This analysis represents a major step forward in the understanding of the behavior of the double-gateway system constituted by the Late Miocene Betic and Rifian corridors. We demonstrate that the "siphon" scenario, involving inflow of cold upwelled Atlantic water through the Rifian corridor and outflow of Mediterranean water only via the Betic corridor, is unlikely from a physics perspective. It is shown that two exchange patterns are possible depending solely on the relative depth of the corridors. The implication of this is that geological evidence for the behavior of one corridor provides information about the dimensions of the other. We show that disappearance of outflow in one corridor does not necessarily imply its closure and we establish a guideline to determine how geological evidence can be interpreted as indicating one- or two-layer flow. Based on the model results, we propose new physics-based scenarios for the time interval defined for the siphon.