The upper-ocean response to monsoonal forcing in the Arabian Sea: Seasonal and spatial variability

Craig M. Lee*, Burton H. Jones, Kenneth H. Brink, Albert S. Fischer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Observations from four towed profiler surveys undertaken between December 1994 and October 1995 examine the seasonal and spatial variability of the upper ocean response to the Monsoon cycle in the Arabian Sea. Although observed atmospheric forcing agrees well with modern climatologies, cross-basin patterns of mixed-layer depth and water properties observed in 1994-1995 are not entirely consistent with an upper-ocean response dominated by Ekman pumping. During the winter monsoon, the mixed-layer deepens dramatically with distance offshore. Surface cooling intensifies with offshore distance, and a one-dimensional response dominated by convective overturning could explain observed wintertime mixed-layer depths. Except for waters associated with a filament extending offshore from the Omani coast, mixed-layer depths and water properties show only modest cross-basin contrasts during the Southwest Monsoon. Filament waters differ from surrounding mid-basin waters, having shallow mixed-layers and water properties similar to those of waters upwelled near the Omani coast. In September, following the Southwest Monsoon, waters within 1000 km of the Omani coast have cooled and freshened, with marked changes in stratification extending well into the pycnocline. Estimates of Ekman pumping and wind-driven entrainment made using the Southampton Oceanographic Center 1980-1995 surface flux and the Levitus mixed-layer climatologies indicate that during the Southwest Monsoon wind-driven entrainment is considerably stronger than Ekman pumping. Inshore of the windstress maximum, Ekman pumping partially counters wind-driven entrainment, while offshore the two processes act together to deepen the mixed-layer. As Ekman pumping is too weak to counter wind-driven mixed-layer deepening inshore of the windstress maximum, another mechanism must act to maintain the shallow mixed-layers seen in our observations and in climatologies. Offshore advection of coastally upwelled water offers a mechanism for maintaining upper ocean stratification that is consistent with observed changes in upper ocean water properties. Ekman upwelling will modulate wind-driven entrainment, but these results indicate that the primary mechanisms acting inshore of the windstress maximum are wind-driven mixing and horizontal advection. (C) 2000 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1177-1226
Number of pages50
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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