n this paper we revisit, with a thorough in-depth analysis, the dataset collected in the hydrographic surveys of the international collaborative programme POEM (Physical Oceanography of the Eastern Mediterranean) in the period 1986-1987. The work has two major objectives. The first is to refine the dynamic picture of the Ionian upper thermocline sub-basin scale circulation, rather less definitive than the dynamic picture of the Levantine Sea circulation. The second is to identify the pathways of the major water masses of the basin not only in the near-surface, but also in the intermediate and deep layers. To our knowledge, this is the first work defining the pathways of the Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW) and of the Adriatic Deep Water (ADW)/Eastern Mediterranean Deep Water (EMDW) that characterize the intermediate and deep circulations. The major novel results can be summarized as follows. In the upper thermocline: (1) The Atlantic Ionian Stream (AIS) jet entering the Sicily Straits bifurcates into two main branches at 37°N, ~ 17°E. It advects the Modified Atlantic Water (MAW) into the Ionian Sea interior. The first branch turning directly southward encloses an overall anticyclonic area comprising multiple centers around which the MAW is advected. (2) The second AIS branch extends further into the northeastern Ionian, where it too turns southward before crossing the entire Ionian Sea meridionally, advecting MAW on its left side and Ionian Surface Water (ISW) on its right. This branch of the jet is confined to the Ionian margin and does not pass around the Pelops gyre. (3) A new water mass, the LSW, is formed in the Levantine basin and enters the Cretan passage, then is first veered cyclonically south of Crete by the Cretan gyre and successively is entrained anticyclonically around the Pelops gyre, and then enters the Aegean Sea. (4) A permanent cyclone located in the northeastern Ionian determines the pathway of mixed Adriatic Surface Water/Ionian Surface Water (ASW/ISW). (5) A permanent cyclone is found in all the surveys near the tip of the Italian boot. This novel analysis of the LIW pathways shows that: (1) The major source of intermediate LIW during the period 1986-1987 was actually in the Levantine Sea. LIW formed there entered the Cretan passage, was veered cyclonically by the Cretan gyre south of Crete and then entered the southern Ionian Sea. The major LIW pathway was westward directly to the Sicilian Straits. (2) Secondary important LIW pathways were determined by the interior structures. The strong Pelops anticyclone was entraining LIW around its periphery and was determining the LIW northward pathway that closely followed the eastern Greek coastline. It was along this pathway that LIW entered the Otranto Strait. A further branch of LIW was entrained and recirculated around the multiple Ionian Anticyclones (IA) of the western Ionian Sea. (3) The Cretan cyclone is a feature confined to the upper thermocline-intermediate layer. It disappears at ~ 400 dbar while the Pelops anticyclone is strongly barotropic below the upper 100 dbar and penetrates quite intense down to 800 dbar. (4) A further completely novel result concerns the new water mass found in the deep layer that spreads on the 29.15 kg/m3 isopycnal surface. This water mass, characterized by high salinity and high oxygen content, is formed inside the Aegean Sea and is observed to spread out all around the Cretan Are Straits. The final fully novel result is the demonstration of a second pathway for the ADW exiting from the Otranto Strait that is transformed into EMDW and occupies the abyssal layers of the Ionian Sea interior. The traditional pathway for EMDW is along the isobaths along the western side of Italy but ADW was observed to be exiting from the Otranto Strait in the eastern Hellenic trench at 39.5°N, both during POEM-ON86 and POEM-AS87. This second pathway for EMDW follows isobath contours along the western side of Greece. The two EMDW routes converge and merge between 36°N and 35°N, so producing a deep layer of EMDW that occupies uniformly the abyssal plain of the interior of the Ionian Sea.
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