The Western Mediterranean Sea is often subject to intense winds, especially during the winter season. Intense winds induce surface cooling associated with anomalous ocean heat loss, upwelling and diapycnal mixing. In this study we investigate the overall impact of extreme wind events on the upper ocean in the Western Mediterranean sea using sea surface temperature and sea surface height observational data products over the period 1993–2014. We show that the largest thermal anomaly is observed a couple of days after the intense wind event and that it is dependent on the wind intensity. During winter, when deep water formation occurs, it persists for over a month. During summer, when the thermocline is very shallow, the recovery time scale is typically less than 10 days. The sea surface height signal reaches a minimum in correspondence to the intense wind, and normal conditions recover in about six weeks. Unlike for intense winds in the tropics associated to the passage of tropical cyclones, no long term sea surface height anomaly is observed, indicating that the water column heat content is not significantly modified. The observed recovery times suggest instead the possibility of feedbacks on the dynamics of intense cyclones at sub-monthly time scales.
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