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Red Sea Hydrography and Circulation (KAUST)

Co-PIs: Amy Bower, Robert Weller, J. Thomas Farrar

The Red Sea is an ocean basin of local, regional and global significance.  It is a long and narrow sea, ringed by many Middle Eastern and African countries; coastal development in one country will have a profound impact on the entire region.  It is fringed by extensive coral reefs, many in pristine condition, that provide critical habitat for marine life, support several important fisheries and attract tourists.  Formed as the African and Arabian plates split apart, the Red Sea remains to this day an active rifting zone, generating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, as well as deep hypersaline brine pools and valuable mineral deposits at the ocean floor.  One of the world's busiest shipping routes and the largest seaport in the Middle East are in the Red Sea.  In spite of its economic and environmental importance, our knowledge of the oceanographic conditions in the Red Sea, and the important physical, biological, geological and chemical processes remains somewhat limited.  For example, the direction and strength of currents in the Red Sea, and how they change over time, are largely unknown, due mainly to the paucity of oceanographic and meteorological observations.  A few oceanographic numerical models have used the available information on prevailing winds, evaporation and heating to predict the circulation of the Red Sea, but there are insufficient oceanographic data to verify the model results.  Furthermore, such models have not been designed to resolve the narrow currents and small-scale processes close to the reefs, which are essential to the reef ecosystem.  To advance scientific understanding of Red Sea oceanography, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) joined together to conduct the first comprehensive, multi-disciplinary expedition to the Red Sea in October-November 2008.


This project was generously funded by the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST).


Yao, F., I. Hoteit, L.J. Pratt, A.S. Bower, P. Zhai, A. Khol, G. Gopalakrishnan, and D. Rivas, 2014. Seasonal overturning circulation in the Red Sea. 1. Model validation and summer recirculation.  J. Geophys. Res., 119(4), 2263-2289.

Yao, F., I. Hoteit, L.J. Pratt, A.S. Bower, A. Kohl, G. Gopalakrishnan, and D. Rivas, 2014. Seasonal overturning circulation in the Red Sea: 2. Winter circulation.  J. Geophys. Res., 119(4), 2263-2289.

Chen, C., L. Ruixiang, L. Pratt, R. Limeburner, R. Beardsley, A.S. Bower, H. Jiang, Y. Abualnaja, X. Liu, Q. Xu, H. Lin, J. Lan, T-W Kim, 2014. Process modeling studies of physical mechanisms of the formation of an anticyclonic eddy in the central Red Sea.   J. Geophys. Res, 119(2), 1445-1464.

Zhai, P., and A. Bower, 2013. The response of the Red Sea to a strong wind jet near the Tokar Gap in summer.  J. Geophys. Res., 118(1), 421-434.

Papadopoulos, V.P., Y. Abualnaja, S.A. Josey, A. Bower, D.E. Raitsos, H. Kontoyiannis, and I. Hoteit, 2013. Atmospheric forcing of the winter air-sea heat fluxes over the northern Red SeaJ. Climate, 26, 1685-1701.

Swift, S., A. Bower, and R. Schmitt, 2012. Vertical, horizontal, and temporal changes in temperature in the Atlantis II and Discovery hot brine pools, Red Sea. Deep Sea Res. I, 118-128.

Bower, A.S., and H.H. Furey, 2011. Mesoscale eddies in the Gulf of Aden and their impact on the spreading Red Sea outflow water. Prog.  Oceanogr., 96, 14-39.

Technical Reports

A.S. Bower, 2009.  R/V Oceanus Voyage 449-6 Red Sea Atlantis II Deep Comples Area, 19 October - 1 November 2008.  WHOI Tech Report WHOI-KAUST-CTR-2009-1, 39 pp.