Ocean turbulence and mixing around Sri Lanka and in adjacent waters of the northern Bay of Bengal

Jinadasa, SUP, Lozovatsky I, Planella-Morato J, Nash JD, MacKinnon JA, Lucas AJ, Wijesekera HW, Fernando HJS.  2016.  Ocean turbulence and mixing around Sri Lanka and in adjacent waters of the northern Bay of Bengal. Oceanography. 29:170-179.

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circulation, monsoon, salt, shear, Tracers


As a part of the US Air-Sea Interactions Regional Initiative, the first extensive set of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate (epsilon) measurements from microstructure profilers were obtained in the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and around Sri Lanka during 2013-2015. The observations span almost 1,200 km meridionally, and capture the dynamics associated with a variety of mesoscale and submesoscale features. High freshwater input in the northern part of the basin leads to regions of intense near-surface stratification, which become weaker moving south. The thin layers trap mechanical energy input from the atmosphere, often confining turbulence to the surface boundary layer. These thin layers can form shallow fronts, which at times resemble turbulent gravity currents (Sarkar et al., 2016, in this issue), and are associated with high levels of mixing. Away from the local frontal zones, turbulence in the surface low-salinity layer appears to be decoupled from the underlying pycnocline, where turbulence occurs only in rare and sporadic breaking events. A striking feature common to all of the data acquired is a dearth of turbulent mixing at depth, a condition that appears to be pervasive throughout the basin except during the passage of tropical storms. It is likely that the strong near-surface stratification effectively isolates the deeper water column from mechanical penetration of atmospheric energy.