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Seasonal and Year-To-Year Variability of Boundary Currents and Eddy Salt Flux along the Eastern and Southern Coasts of Sri Lanka Observed by PIES and Satellite Measurements

A. AnutaliyaaScripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
bInstitute of Marine Science, Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand

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U. SendaScripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

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J. L. McCleanaScripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

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J. SprintallaScripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

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M. LankhorstaScripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

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C. M. LeecApplied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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L. RainvillecApplied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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W. N. C. PriyadarshanidNational Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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S. U. P. JinadasaeOcean University of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Abstract

Boundary currents along the Sri Lankan eastern and southern coasts serve as a pathway for salt exchange between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea basins in the northern Indian Ocean, which are characterized by their contrasting salinities. Measurements from two pairs of pressure-sensing inverted echo sounders (PIES) deployed along the Sri Lankan eastern and southern coasts as well as satellite measurements are used to understand the variability of these boundary currents and the associated salt transport. The volume transport in the surface (0–200-m depth) layer exhibits a seasonal cycle associated with the monsoonal wind reversal and interannual variability associated with the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). In this layer, the boundary currents transport low-salinity water out of the Bay of Bengal during the northeast monsoon and transport high-salinity water into the Bay of Bengal during the fall monsoon transition of some years (e.g., 2015 and 2018). The Bay of Bengal salt input increases during the 2016 negative IOD as the eastward flow of high-salinity water during the fall monsoon transition intensifies, whereas the effect of the 2015/16 El Niño on the Bay of Bengal salt input is still unclear. The time-mean eddy salt flux over the upper 200 m estimated for the April 2015–March 2019 period along the eastern coast accounts for 9% of the salt budget required to balance an estimated 0.13 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of annual freshwater input into the Bay of Bengal. The time-mean eddy salt flux over the upper 200 m estimated for the December 2015–November 2019 period along the southern coast accounts for 27% of that same salt budget.

Significance Statement

In the northern Indian Ocean, the highly saline Arabian Sea undergoes extreme evaporation while the Bay of Bengal (BoB) receives excess freshwater input. The focus of this study is the role of the observed time-variable circulation around Sri Lanka that permits the exchange between these basins to maintain their salinity distributions. The circulation fluctuates seasonally following the monsoon wind reversal and interannually in response to large-scale climate modes. The BoB freshwater export around Sri Lanka occurs during the northeast monsoon, whereas saline water import occurs during the fall monsoon transition of some years. However, rapid changes in both water volume transport and salt exchange can occur. The circulation over 0–200-m depth transports ∼9%–27% of the BoB salt budget.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

This article is included in the Air–Sea Interactions from the Diurnal to the Intraseasonal during the PISTON, MISOBOB, and CAMP2Ex Observational Campaigns in the Tropics Special Collection.

Corresponding author: Arachaporn Anutaliya, arachaporn.an@go.buu.ac.th

Abstract

Boundary currents along the Sri Lankan eastern and southern coasts serve as a pathway for salt exchange between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea basins in the northern Indian Ocean, which are characterized by their contrasting salinities. Measurements from two pairs of pressure-sensing inverted echo sounders (PIES) deployed along the Sri Lankan eastern and southern coasts as well as satellite measurements are used to understand the variability of these boundary currents and the associated salt transport. The volume transport in the surface (0–200-m depth) layer exhibits a seasonal cycle associated with the monsoonal wind reversal and interannual variability associated with the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). In this layer, the boundary currents transport low-salinity water out of the Bay of Bengal during the northeast monsoon and transport high-salinity water into the Bay of Bengal during the fall monsoon transition of some years (e.g., 2015 and 2018). The Bay of Bengal salt input increases during the 2016 negative IOD as the eastward flow of high-salinity water during the fall monsoon transition intensifies, whereas the effect of the 2015/16 El Niño on the Bay of Bengal salt input is still unclear. The time-mean eddy salt flux over the upper 200 m estimated for the April 2015–March 2019 period along the eastern coast accounts for 9% of the salt budget required to balance an estimated 0.13 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of annual freshwater input into the Bay of Bengal. The time-mean eddy salt flux over the upper 200 m estimated for the December 2015–November 2019 period along the southern coast accounts for 27% of that same salt budget.

Significance Statement

In the northern Indian Ocean, the highly saline Arabian Sea undergoes extreme evaporation while the Bay of Bengal (BoB) receives excess freshwater input. The focus of this study is the role of the observed time-variable circulation around Sri Lanka that permits the exchange between these basins to maintain their salinity distributions. The circulation fluctuates seasonally following the monsoon wind reversal and interannually in response to large-scale climate modes. The BoB freshwater export around Sri Lanka occurs during the northeast monsoon, whereas saline water import occurs during the fall monsoon transition of some years. However, rapid changes in both water volume transport and salt exchange can occur. The circulation over 0–200-m depth transports ∼9%–27% of the BoB salt budget.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

This article is included in the Air–Sea Interactions from the Diurnal to the Intraseasonal during the PISTON, MISOBOB, and CAMP2Ex Observational Campaigns in the Tropics Special Collection.

Corresponding author: Arachaporn Anutaliya, arachaporn.an@go.buu.ac.th
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