Submesoscale processes at shallow salinity fronts in the Bay of Bengal: Observations during the winter monsoon

Ramachandran, S, Tandon A, MacKinnon J, Lucas AJ, Pinkel R, Waterhouse AF, Nash J, Shroyer E, Mahadevan A, Weller RA, Farrar JT.  2018.  Submesoscale processes at shallow salinity fronts in the Bay of Bengal: Observations during the winter monsoon. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 48:479-509.

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baroclinic instability, indian-ocean, ocean mixed-layer, Oceanography, parameterization, part i, potential, restratification, summer monsoon, surface-layer, turbulence, Vorticity


Lateral submesoscale processes and their influence on vertical stratification at shallow salinity fronts in the central Bay of Bengal during the winter monsoon are explored using high-resolution data from a cruise in November 2013. The observations are from a radiator survey centered at a salinity-controlled density front, embedded in a zone of moderate mesoscale strain (0.15 times the Coriolis parameter) and forced by winds with a downfront orientation. Below a thin mixed layer, often <= 10 m, the analysis shows several dynamical signatures indicative of submesoscale processes: (i) negative Ertel potential vorticity (PV); (ii) low-PV anomalies with O(1-10) km lateral extent, where the vorticity estimated on isopycnals and the isopycnal thickness are tightly coupled, varying in lockstep to yield low PV; (iii) flow conditions susceptible to forced symmetric instability (FSI) or bearing the imprint of earlier FSI events; (iv) negative lateral gradients in the absolute momentum field (inertial instability); and (v) strong contribution from differential sheared advection at O(1) km scales to the growth rate of the depth-averaged stratification. The findings here show one-dimensional vertical processes alone cannot explain the vertical stratification and its lateral variability over O(1-10) km scales at the radiator survey.