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  • Air–Sea Interactions from the Diurnal to the Intraseasonal during the PISTON, MISOBOB, and CAMP2Ex Observational Campaigns in the Tropics x
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Dipanjan Chaudhuri, Debasis Sengupta, Eric D’Asaro, R. Venkatesan, and M. Ravichandran

Abstract

Cyclone Phailin, which developed over the Bay of Bengal in October 2013, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones to make landfall in India. We study the response of the salinity-stratified north Bay of Bengal to Cyclone Phailin with the help of hourly observations from three open-ocean moorings 200 km from the cyclone track, a mooring close to the cyclone track, daily sea surface salinity (SSS) from Aquarius, and a one-dimensional model. Before the arrival of Phailin, moored observations showed a shallow layer of low-salinity water lying above a deep, warm “barrier” layer. As the winds strengthened, upper-ocean mixing due to enhanced vertical shear of storm-generated currents led to a rapid increase of near-surface salinity. Sea surface temperature (SST) cooled very little, however, because the prestorm subsurface ocean was warm. Aquarius SSS increased by 1.5–3 psu over an area of nearly one million square kilometers in the north Bay of Bengal. A one-dimensional model, with initial conditions and surface forcing based on moored observations, shows that cyclone winds rapidly eroded the shallow, salinity-dominated density stratification and mixed the upper ocean to 40–50-m depth, consistent with observations. Model sensitivity experiments indicate that changes in ocean mixed layer temperature in response to Cyclone Phailin are small. A nearly isothermal, salinity-stratified barrier layer in the prestorm upper ocean has two effects. First, near-surface density stratification reduces the depth of vertical mixing. Second, mixing is confined to the nearly isothermal layer, resulting in little or no SST cooling.

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