Mixed layer variability and chlorophyll a biomass in the Bay of Bengal
The mixed layer is the most variable and dynamically active part of the marine environment that couples the underlying ocean to the atmosphere and plays an important role in determining the oceanic primary productivity. We examined the basin-scale processes controlling the seasonal variability of mixed layer depth in the Bay of Bengal and its association with chlorophyll using a suite of in situ as well as remote sensing data. A coupling between mixed layer depth and chlorophyll was seen during spring intermonsoon and summer monsoon, but for different reasons. In spring intermonsoon the temperature-dominated stratification and associated shallow mixed layer makes the upper waters of the Bay of Bengal nutrient depleted and oligotrophic. In summer, although the salinity-dominated stratification in the northern Bay of Bengal shallows the mixed layer, the nutrient input from adjoining rivers enhance the surface chlorophyll. This enhancement is confined only to the surface layer and with increase in depth, the chlorophyll biomass decreases rapidly due to reduction in sunlight by suspended sediment. In the south, advection of high salinity waters from the Arabian Sea and westward propagating Rossby waves from the eastern Bay of Bengal led to the formation of deep mixed layer. In contrast, in the Indo–Sri Lanka region, the shallow mixed layer and nutrient enrichment driven by upwelling and Ekman pumping resulted in chlorophyll enhancement. The mismatch between the nitrate and chlorophyll indicated the inadequacy of present data to fully unravel its coupling to mixed layer processes.