Scale dependence of midlatitude air-sea interaction

AMS Citation:
Bishop, S. P., R. J. Small, F. O. Bryan, and R. A. Tomas, 2017: Scale dependence of midlatitude air-sea interaction. Journal of Climate, 30, 8207-8221, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0159.1.
Resource Type:article
Title:Scale dependence of midlatitude air-sea interaction
Abstract: It has traditionally been thought that midlatitude sea surface temperature (SST) variability is predominantly driven by variations in air-sea surface heat fluxes (SHFs) associated with synoptic weather variability. Here it is shown that in regions marked by the highest climatological SST gradients and SHF loss to the atmosphere, the variability in SST and SHF at monthly and longer time scales is driven by internal ocean processes, termed here "oceanic weather.'' This is shown within the context of an energy balance model of coupled air-sea interaction that includes both stochastic forcing for the atmosphere and ocean. The functional form of the lagged correlation between SST and SHF allows us to discriminate between variability that is driven by atmospheric versus oceanic weather. Observations show that the lagged functional relationship of SST-SHF and SST tendency-SHF correlation is indicative of ocean-driven SST variability in the western boundary currents (WBCs) and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). By applying spatial and temporal smoothing, thereby dampening the signature SST anomalies generated by eddy stirring, it is shown that the oceanic influence on SST variability increases with time scale but decreases with increasing spatial scale. The scale at which SST variability in the WBCs and the ACC transitions from ocean to atmosphere driven occurs at scales less than 500 km. This transition scale highlights the need to resolve mesoscale eddies in coupled climate models to adequately simulate the variability of air-sea interaction. Away from strong SST fronts the lagged functional relationships are indicative of the traditional paradigm of atmospherically driven SST variability.
Peer Review:Refereed
Copyright Information:Copyright 2017 American Meteorological Society (AMS).
OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7fr004j
Publisher's Version: 10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0159.1
  • Stuart P. Bishop
  • R. Justin Small - NCAR/UCAR
  • Frank O. Bryan - NCAR/UCAR
  • Robert A. Tomas - NCAR/UCAR
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