Control of salinity on the mixed layer depth in the world ocean: 1. General description

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Abstract

[1] Using instantaneous temperature and salinity profiles, including recent Argo data, a global ocean climatology of monthly mean properties of the “barrier layer” (BL) phenomenon is constructed. This climatology is based on the individual analysis of instantaneous profiles in contrast with previous large-scale climatologies derived from gridded fields. This ensures a more accurate description of the BL phenomenon. We distinguish three types of regions: BLs are quasi-permanent in the equatorial and western tropical Atlantic and Pacific, the Bay of Bengal, the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, the Labrador Sea, and parts of the Arctic and Southern Ocean. In the northern subpolar basins, the southern Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea, BLs are rather seasonal. Finally, BLs are typically never detected between 25° and 45° latitude in each basin. Away from the deep tropics, the analysis reveals strong similarities between the two hemispheres and the three oceans regarding BL seasonality and formation mechanisms. Temperature inversions below the mixed layer are often associated with BLs. Their typical amplitude, depth, and seasonality are described here for the first time at global scale. We suggest that this global product could be used as a reference for future studies and to validate the representation of upper oceanic layers by general circulation models.

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