Response of the Surface Circulation of the Arabian Sea to Monsoonal Forcing

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Lisa M Beal1, Verena Hormann2, Rick Lumpkin3 and Gregory R Foltz3, (1)University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL, United States, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)NOAA/AOML, Miami, FL, United States
We use two decades of drifter and satellite data to examine the monthly evolution of the surface circulation of the Arabian Sea, which reverses annually in response to the Indian monsoon winds. Most significantly, we find that in the transition from winter to summer circulations, northward flow appears along the length of the western boundary as early as March or April, one or two months before the onset of the southwest monsoon winds. This reversal is initiated by annual Rossby waves, which in turn are initiated by wind curl forcing during the previous southwest monsoon. These results lead us to speculate that there is an oceanic mechanism through which one monsoon may precondition the next. Previous studies of monsoon circulations with lower temporal resolution have highlighted basin-wide currents and connections that are not found to exist in the monthly fields. In particular, we find that the Northeast Monsoon Current does not reach the western boundary and there is no counter-rotating gyre system during boreal winter. South of the equator, the eastward-flowing South Equatorial Counter Current (SECC) is present year-round, even though equatorial winds are strongly influenced by the monsoons. Semi-annual variability of the SECC is governed by Ekman pumping over the south equatorial gyre (or Seychelles dome) and, surprisingly, it is weakest during the northeast monsoon. This region has important influence on the atmosphere and its link to the monsoons deserves further investigation. The East African Coastal Current feeds into the SECC from the boundary. During the southwest monsoon it overshoots the equator and splits, feeding both northward into the Somali Current and eastward into the SECC after looping back across the equator. This apparent retroflection of the EACC is what was previously known as the southern gyre and is obscured at the surface by strong, locally wind-driven, cross-equatorial Ekman transport. Finally, there is broad, strong eastward flow at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden throughout the southwest monsoon, which is influenced by the curvature and bifurcation of the atmospheric monsoon jet.