We examine the seasonal mixed-layer temperature (MLT) and salinity (MLS) budgets in the Banda-Arafura Seas region (120-138° E, 8-3° S) using an ECCO ocean-state estimation product. MLT in these seas is relatively high during November-May (austral spring through fall) and relatively low during June-September (austral winter and the period associated with the Asian summer monsoon). Surface heat flux makes the largest contribution to the seasonal MLT tendency, with significant reinforcement by subsurface processes, especially turbulent vertical mixing. Temperature declines (the MLT tendency is negative) in May-August when seasonal insolation is smallest and local winds are strong due to the southeast monsoon, which causes surface heat loss and cooling by vertical processes. In particular, Ekman suction induced by local wind stress curl raises the thermocline in the Arafura Sea, bringing cooler subsurface water closer to the base of the mixed layer where it is subsequently incorporated into the mixed layer through turbulent vertical mixing; this has a cooling effect. The MLT budget also has a small, but non-negligible, semi-annual component since insolation increases and winds weaken during the spring and fall monsoon transitions near the equator. This causes warming via solar heating, reduced surface heat loss, and weakened turbulent mixing compared to austral winter and, to a lesser extent, compared to austral summer. Seasonal MLS is dominated by ocean processes rather than by local freshwater flux. The contributions by horizontal advection and subsurface processes have comparable magnitudes. The results suggest that ocean dynamics play a significant part in determining both seasonal MLT and MLS in the region, such that coupled model studies of the region should use a full ocean model rather than a slab ocean mixed-layer model.
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