Region 2. Large Marine Ecosystems of Black, Caspian Seas and Azov Sea subarea

The problems of changes in thermal conditions and ice cover of the seas at global and regional scales have been discussed and considered in the scientific literature (Matishov, Dzhenyuk, 2012; Levermann et al, 2012; Matishov et al, 2012). In this case, the subject of analysis is usually the shifts in climatic standards and long-term trends in hydrometeorological characteristics, often not exceeding the limits of statistical error. Meanwhile, economic activities in the seas and coastal zones, the stability of terrestrial and marine ecosystems depend primarily on large and long-term oceanological anomalies that do not always coincide with long-term trends (Matishov, 2008).

Climatologist A.I. Voeikov analyzed the linkages between wind and pressure at the end of the 19th century and concluded that a «large axis of European-Asian Continent» was present(Voeikov, 1884). The Siberian Anticyclone with a spur stretching toward Europe was named the Voeikov Axis. This climatic axis arises as a «wind ridge» and separates winds with the southern component (to the north of the axis) from the winds with the northern component (to the south of the axis). This results in abnormal advection of cold from the Siberian Anticyclone towards the Pyrenees and of heat of the Gulfstream to the Arctic in the direction of the Franz Josef Land during the winter months. Reduction of the ice cover during summer and autumn months in the Arctic Basin causes changes of a large-scale atmospheric circulation (Overland, Wang, 2010)These chances lead to an increase of blocking and precipitation in Europe during the winter months (Liu et al, 2012).

At the same time, abnormally cold weather of the second half of winter over the territory of Central and Southern Europe and the water areas of the neighbouring seas (the Sea of Azov, Northeastern Black Sea, Northern Caspian Sea) has become a common event since the early 21st century (Matishov et al, 2012; Moore and Renfrew, 2012; Tourpali and Zanis, 2013). Anomalies in January-February 2006 and 2012 were pronounced. Air temperature over the south of European Russia decreased to -32-33°C in January 2006. Mean monthly values were around -15° (12-15° lower than the standard). Similar conditions were registered in January-February 2012. During that period, the impact of the Siberian Anticyclone spread to the English Channel and Portugal.

Ice in the Sea of Azov and Caspian Sea became a factor that challenged shipping activities. Approximately 100 vessels were trapped in the ice in the areas and ports of the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait in February-March 2012 (Matishov et al, 2012). Drift ice in the Caspian Sea spread along the western coast to the Apsheron Peninsula.

The third part of Atlas focuses on Large Marine Ecosystems of the southern European Russian seas – the Black Sea (including the Sea of Azov subarea) and the Caspian Sea (Figure 1).

Distribution of stations over the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Caspian Sea areas in 1884-2012
Figure 1 - Distribution of stations over the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Caspian Sea areas in 1884-2012.

The total number of stations, included in this part of the Atlas database is 196 778. Their distribution by seas is presented in Table 1 and Figure 2.

Table 1 - Distribution of stations by large marine ecosystems of the southern seas
Large Marine EcosystemsNumber of stationsPeriod
Black Sea86 8361884-2012
Sea of Azov66 6091891-2012
Caspian Sea43 3331897-2011
Total by seas196 778

Распределение станций по месяцам и годам в базе данных Чёрного, Азовского и Каспийского морей (1884-2012 гг.)
Figure 2 - Distribution of stations by months and years in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Caspian Sea database (1884-2012).

Murmansk Marine Biological Institute has been carrying out its expeditionary studies in the Sea of Azov since 1997. The Azov Branch of the Institute and a research station were established in 1999. The Southern Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences was established in 2002 in Rostov-on-Don. With the establishment of the Centre, observations over the state of the Sea of Azov were made regularly, and were extended to cover the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

281 sea cruises to the Sea of Azov, Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea were performed for the period of 1997 – 2012; the primary data for 8 302 stations are presented in Figure 3.

Морские экспедиции ЮНЦ РАН в Азовском, Чёрном и Каспийском морях в период 1997-2011 гг.
Figure 3 - SSC RAS marine expeditions and cruises in the Sea of Azov, Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea in 1997-2011.