Seasonal variations of thermocline circulation and ventilation in the Indian Ocean


Two seasonal hydrographic data sets, including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients, are used in a mixing model which combines cluster analysis with optimum multiparameter analysis to determine the spreading and mixing of the thermocline waters in the Indian Ocean. The mixing model comprises a system of four major source water masses, which were identified in the thermocline through cluster analysis. They are Indian Central Water (ICW), North Indian Central Water (NICW) interpreted as aged ICW, Australasian Mediterranean Water (AAMW), and Red Sea Water (RSW)/Persian Gulf Water (PGW). The mixing ratios of these water masses are quantified and mapped on four isopycnal surfaces which span the thermocline from 150 to 600 m in the northern Indian Ocean, on two meridional sections along 60°E and 90°E, and on two zonal sections along 10°S and 6°N. The mixing ratios and pathways of the thermocline water masses show large seasonal variations, particularly in the upper 400–500 m of the thermocline. The most prominent signal of seasonal variation occurs in the Somali Current, the western boundary current, which appears only during the SW (summer) monsoon. The northward spreading of ICW into the equatorial and northern Indian Ocean is by way of the Somali Current centered at 300–400 m on the σθ=26.7 isopycnal surface during the summer monsoon and of the Equatorial Countercurrent during the NE (winter) monsoon. More ICW carried into the northern Indian Ocean during the summer monsoon is seen clearly in the zonal section along 6°N. NICW spreads southward through the western Indian Ocean and is stronger during the winter monsoon. AAMW appears in both seasons but is slightly stronger during the summer in the upper thermocline. The westward flow of AAMW is by way of the South Equatorial Current and slightly bends to the north on the σθ=26.7 isopycnal surface during the summer monsoon, indicative of its contribution to the western boundary current. Outflow of RSW/PGW seems effectively blocked by the continuation of strong northward jet of the Somali Current along the western Arabian Sea during the summer, giving a rather small contribution of only up to 20% in the Arabian Sea. A schematic summer and winter thermocline circulation emerges from this study. Both hydrography and water ‐ mass mixing ratios suggest that the contribution of the water from the South Indian Ocean and from the Indo‐Pacific through flow controls the circulation and ventilation in the western boundary region during the summer. However, during the winter the water is carried into the eastern boundary by the Equatorial Countercurrent and leaks into the eastern Bay of Bengal, from where the water is advected into the northwestern Indian Ocean by the North Equatorial Current. The so‐called East Madagascar Current as a southward flow occurs only during the summer, as is suggested by both hydrography and water‐mass mixing patterns from this paper. During the winter (austral summer) the current seems reversal to a northward flow along east of Madagascar, somewhat symmetrical to the Somali Current in the north

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This paper was published in OceanRep.

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