The Northeast Monsoon's impact on mixing, phytoplankton biomass and nutrient cycling in the Arabian Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • In the northern Arabian Sea, atmospheric conditions during the Northeast (winter) Monsoon lead to deep convective mixing. Due to the proximity of the permanent pycnocline to the sea surface, this mixing does not penetrate below 125 m. However, a strong nitracline is also present and the deep convection results in significant nitrate flux into the surface waters. This leads to nitrate concentrations over the upper 100 m that exceed 4 mu M toward the end of the monsoon. During the 1994/1995 US JGOFS/Arabian Sea expedition, the mean areal gross primary production over two successive Northeast Monsoons was determined to be 1.35 gC/m(2)/d. Thus, despite the deep penetrative convection, high rates of primary productivity were maintained. An interdisciplinary model was developed to elucidate the biogeochemical processes involved in supporting the elevated productivity. This model consisted of a 1-D mixed-layer model coupled to a set of equations that tracked phytoplankton growth and the concentration of the two major nutrients (nitrate and ammonium). Zooplankton grazing was parameterized by a rate constant determined by shipboard experiments. Model boundary conditions consist of meteorological time-series measured from the surface buoy that was part of the ONR Arabian Sea Experiment’s central mooring. Our numerical experiments show that elevated surface evaporation, and the associated salinization of the mixed layer, strongly contributes to the frequency and penetration depth of the observed convective mixing. Cooler surface temperatures. increased nitrate entrainment, reduced water column stratification, and lower near-surface chlorophyll a concentrations all result from this enhanced mixing. The model also captured a dependence on regenerated nitrogen observed in nutrient uptake experiments pet-formed during the Northeast Monsoon. Our numerical experiments also indicate that variability in mean pycnocline depth causes up to a 25% reduction in areal chlorophyll a concentration. We hypothesize that such shifts in pycnocline depth may contribute to the interannual variations in primary production and surface chlorophyll a concentration that have been previously observed in this region. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 2000