The Theoretical and Experimental Tomography in the Sea Experiment (THETIS 1) took place in the Gulf of Lion to observe the evolution of the temperature field and the process of deep convection during the 1991–1992 winter. The temperature measurements consist of moored sensors, conductivity‐temperature‐depth and expendable bathythermograph surveys, and acoustic tomography. Because of this diverse data set and since the field evolves rather fast, the analysis uses a unified framework, based on estimation theory and implementing a Kaiman filter. The resolution and the errors associated with the model are systematically estimated. Temperature is a good tracer of water masses. The time‐evolving three‐dimensional view of the field resulting from the analysis shows the details of the three classical convection phases: preconditioning, vigourous convection, and relaxation. In all phases, there is strong spatial nonuniformity, with mesoscale activity, short timescales, and sporadic evidence of advective events (surface capping, intrusions of Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW)). Deep convection, reaching 1500 m, was observed in late February; by late April the field had not yet returned to its initial conditions (strong deficit of LIW). Comparison with available atmospheric flux data shows that advection acts to delay the occurence of convection and confirms the essential role of buoyancy fluxes. For this winter, the deep mixing results in an injection of anomalously warm water (ΔT≈0.03°) to a depth of 1500 m, compatible with the deep warming previously reported.