Effect of the Barrier Layer on the Upper Ocean Response to MJO Forcing

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Subrahmanyam Bulusu, University of South Carolina Columbia, Columbia, SC, United States
Recently, attention has been given to an upper ocean feature known as the Barrier Layer, which has been shown to impact meteorological phenomena from ENSO to tropical cyclones by suppressing vertical mixing, which reduces sea surface cooling and enhances surface heat fluxes. The calculation defines the Barrier Layer as the difference between the Isothermal Layer Depth (ILD) and Mixed Layer Depth (MLD). Proper representation of these features relies on precise observations of SSS to attain accurate measurements of the MLD and subsequently, the BLT. Compared to the many available in situ SSS measurements, the NASA Aquarius salinity mission currently obtains the closest observations to the true SSS. The role of subsurface features will be better understood through increased accuracy of SSS measurements. In this study BLT estimates are derived from satellite measurements using a multilinear regression model (MRM) in the Indian Ocean. The MRM relates BLT to satellite derived SSS, sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface height anomalies (SSHA). Besides being a variable that responds passively to atmospheric conditions, SSS significantly controls upper ocean density and therefore the MLD. The formation of a Barrier Layer can lead to possible feedbacks that impact the atmospheric component of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), as stated as one of the three major hypotheses of the DYNAMO field campaign. This layer produces a stable stratification, reducing vertical mixing, which influences surface heat fluxes and thus could possibly impact atmospheric conditions during the MJO. Establishing the magnitude and extent of SSS variations during the MJO will be a useful tool for data assimilation into models to correctly represent both oceanic thermodynamic characteristics and atmospheric processes during intraseasonal variations.