Vertical distribution of chlorophyll in dynamically distinct regions of the southern Bay of Bengal

Thushara, Venugopal; Vinayachandran, Puthenveettil Narayana Menon; Matthews, Adrian J.; Webber, Benjamin G. M.; Queste, Bastien Y.

The Bay of Bengal (BoB) generally exhibits surface oligotrophy due to nutrient limitation induced by strong salinity stratification. Nevertheless, there are hotspots of high chlorophyll in the BoB where the monsoonal forcings are strong enough to break the stratification; one such region is the southern BoB, east of Sri Lanka. A recent field programme conducted during the summer monsoon of 2016, as a part of the Bay of Bengal Boundary Layer Experiment (BoBBLE), provides a unique high-resolution dataset of the vertical distribution of chlorophyll in the southern BoB using ocean gliders along with shipboard conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) measurements. Observations were carried out for a duration of 12–20 days, covering the dynamically active regions of the Sri Lanka Dome (SLD) and the Southwest Monsoon Current (SMC). Mixing and upwelling induced by the monsoonal wind forcing enhanced surface chlorophyll concentrations (0.3–0.7 mg m−3). Prominent deep chlorophyll maxima (DCM; 0.3–1.2 mg m−3) existed at intermediate depths (20–50 m), signifying the contribution of subsurface productivity to the biological carbon cycling in the BoB. The shape of chlorophyll profiles varied in different dynamical regimes; upwelling was associated with sharp and intense DCM, whereas mixing resulted in a diffuse and weaker DCM. Within the SLD, open-ocean Ekman suction favoured a substantial increase in chlorophyll. Farther east, where the thermocline was deeper, enhanced surface chlorophyll was associated with intermittent mixing events. Remote forcing by the westward propagating Rossby waves influenced the upper-ocean dynamics and chlorophyll distribution in the southern BoB. Stabilizing surface freshening events and barrier-layer formation often inhibited the generation of surface chlorophyll. The pathway of the SMC intrusion was marked by a distinct band of chlorophyll, indicating the advective effect of biologically rich Arabian Sea waters. The region of the monsoon current exhibited the strongest DCM as well as the highest column-integrated chlorophyll. Observations suggest that the persistence of DCM in the southern BoB is promoted by surface oligotrophy and shallow mixed layers. Results from a coupled physical–ecosystem model substantiate the dominant role of mixed layer processes associated with the monsoon in controlling the nutrient distribution and biological productivity in the southern BoB. The present study provides new insights into the vertical distribution of chlorophyll in the BoB, emphasizing the need for extensive in situ sampling and ecosystem model-based efforts for a better understanding of the biophysical interactions and the potential climatic feedbacks.

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Thushara, Venugopal / Vinayachandran, Puthenveettil Narayana Menon / Matthews, Adrian J. / et al: Vertical distribution of chlorophyll in dynamically distinct regions of the southern Bay of Bengal. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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