Role of fronts in the formation of Arabian Sea barrier layers during summer monsoon
The barrier layer (BL) — a salinity stratification embedded in the upper warm layer — is a common feature of the tropical oceans. In the northern Indian Ocean, it has the potential to significantly alter the air–sea interactions. In the present paper, we investigate the spatio-temporal structure of BL in the Arabian Sea during summer monsoon. This season is indeed a key component of the Asian climate. Based on a comprehensive dataset of Conductivity–Temperature–Depth (CTD) and Argo in situ hydrographic profiles, we find that a BL exists in the central Arabian Sea during summer. However, it is highly heterogeneous in space, and intermittent, with scales of about ∼100 km or less and a couple of weeks. The BL patterns appear to be closely associated to the salinity front separating two water masses (Arabian Sea High Salinity Water in the Northern and Eastern part of the basin, fresher Bay of Bengal Water to the south and to the west). An ocean general circulation model is used to infer the formation mechanism of the BL. It appears that thick (more than 40 m) BL patterns are formed at the salinity front by subduction of the saltier water mass under the fresher one in an area of relatively uniform temperature. Those thick BL events, with variable position and timing, result in a broader envelope of thinner BL in climatological conditions. However, the individual patterns of BL are probably too much short-lived to significantly affect the monsoonal air–sea interactions.
KeywordsBarrier layer Arabian Sea Summer monsoon ARGO ASHSW
This study was funded by IRD, IFREMER, Mercator Océan and CNRS. Support from these institutions is gratefully acknowledged. We are indebted to the people who set up the International ARGO Project and made the ARGO dataset freely available. The model simulations were performed on a SGI computer. We made extensive use of the SAXO software (http://forge.ipsl.jussieu.fr/saxo) developed by Sébastien Masson for plotting. We appreciated constructive comments by Gurvan Madec.
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