National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Cirene: Air-sea interactions in the Seychelles-Chagos thermocline ridge region

Vialard, J., J.P. Duvel, M. McPhaden, P. Bouruet-Aubertot, B. Ward, E. Key, D. Bourras, R. Weller, P. Minnett, A. Weill, C. Cassou, L. Eymard, T. Fristedt, C. Basdevant, Y. Dandonneau, O. Duteil, T. Izumo, C. de Boyer Montégut, S. Masson, F. Marsac, C. Menkes, and S. Kennan

Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., 90(1), 45–61, doi: 10.1175/2008BAMS2499.1 (2009)

The Vasco—Cirene field experiment, in January—February 2007, targeted the Seychelles—Chagos thermocline ridge (SCTR) region, with the main purpose of investigating Madden—Julian Oscillation (MJO)-related SST events. The Validation of the Aeroclipper System under Convective Occurrences (Vasco) experiment (Duvel et al. 2009) and Cirene cruise were designed to provide complementary views of air—sea interaction in the SCTR region. While meteorological balloons were deployed from the Seychelles as a part of Vasco, the Research Vessel (R/V) Suroît was cruising the SCTR region as a part of Cirene.


The Vasco—Cirene program explores how strong air—sea interactions promoted by the shallow thermocline and high sea surface temperature in the Seychelles—Chagos thermocline ridge results in marked variability at synoptic, intraseasonal, and interannual time scales. The Cirene oceanographic cruise collected oceanic, atmospheric, and air—sea flux observations in this region in January—February 2007. The contemporaneous Vasco field experiment complemented these measurements with balloon deployments from the Seychelles. Cirene also contributed to the development of the Indian Ocean observing system via deployment of a mooring and 12 Argo profilers.

Unusual conditions prevailed in the Indian Ocean during January and February 2007, following the Indian Ocean dipole climate anomaly of late 2006. Cirene measurements show that the Seychelles—Chagos thermocline ridge had higher-than-usual heat content with subsurface anomalies up to 7°C. The ocean surface was warmer and fresher than average, and unusual eastward currents prevailed down to 800 m. These anomalous conditions had a major impact on tuna fishing in early 2007. Our dataset also sampled the genesis and maturation of Tropical Cyclone Dora, including high surface temperatures and a strong diurnal cycle before the cyclone, followed by a 1.5°C cooling over 10 days. Balloonborne instruments sampled the surface and boundary layer dynamics of Dora. We observed small-scale structures like dry-air layers in the atmosphere and diurnal warm layers in the near-surface ocean. The Cirene data will quantify the impact of these finescale features on the upper-ocean heat budget and atmospheric deep convection.

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