National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2022

The barrier layer effect on the heat and freshwater balance from moored observations in the Eastern Pacific fresh pool

Katsura, S., J. Sprintall, J.T. Farrar, D. Zhang, and M.F. Cronin

J. Phys. Oceanogr., 52(8), 1705–1730, doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-21-0243.1, View online (2022)

Formation and evolution of barrier layers (BLs) and associated temperature inversions (TIs) were investigated using a 1-yr time series of oceanic and air–sea surface observations from three moorings deployed in the eastern Pacific fresh pool. BL thickness and TI amplitude showed a seasonality with maxima in boreal summer and autumn when BLs were persistently present. Mixed layer salinity (MLS) and mixed layer temperature (MLT) budgets were constructed to investigate the formation mechanism of BLs and TIs. The MLS budget showed that BLs were initially formed in response to horizontal advection of freshwater in boreal summer and then primarily maintained by precipitation. The MLT budget revealed that penetration of shortwave radiation through the mixed layer base is the dominant contributor to TI formation through subsurface warming. Geostrophic advection is a secondary contributor to TI formation through surface cooling. When the BL exists, the cooling effect from entrainment and the warming effect from detrainment are both significantly reduced. In addition, when the BL is associated with the presence of a TI, entrainment works to warm the mixed layer. The presence of BLs makes the shallower mixed layer more sensitive to surface heat and freshwater fluxes, acting to enhance the formation of TIs that increase the subsurface warming via shortwave penetration.

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