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Response of Surface Wind Divergence to Mesoscale SST Anomalies under Different Wind Conditions

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  • 1 LMD/IPSL, CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Sorbonne Université, Paris, and Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Champs-sur-Marne, France
  • | 2 LMD/IPSL, CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
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Abstract

The response of the atmospheric boundary layer to mesoscale sea surface temperature (SST) is often characterized by a link between wind stress divergence and downwind SST gradients. In this study, an idealized simulation representative of a storm track above a prescribed stationary SST field is examined in order to determine in which background wind conditions that relationship occurs. The SST field is composed of a midlatitude large-scale frontal zone and mesoscale SST anomalies. It is shown that the divergence of the surface wind can correlate either with the Laplacian of the atmospheric boundary layer temperature or with the downwind SST gradient. The first case corresponds to background situations of weak winds or of unstable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with an Ekman balance adjustment in the boundary layer. The second case corresponds to background situations of stable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with downward mixing of momentum. Concerning the divergence of the wind stress, it generally resembles downwind SST gradients for stable and unstable boundary layers, in agreement with past studies. For weak winds, a correlation with the temperature Laplacian is, however, found to some extent. In conclusion, our study reveals the importance of the large-scale wind conditions in modulating the surface atmospheric response with different responses in the divergences of surface wind and wind stress.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: G. Lapeyre, glapeyre@lmd.ens.fr

This article is included in the Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction Special Collection.

Abstract

The response of the atmospheric boundary layer to mesoscale sea surface temperature (SST) is often characterized by a link between wind stress divergence and downwind SST gradients. In this study, an idealized simulation representative of a storm track above a prescribed stationary SST field is examined in order to determine in which background wind conditions that relationship occurs. The SST field is composed of a midlatitude large-scale frontal zone and mesoscale SST anomalies. It is shown that the divergence of the surface wind can correlate either with the Laplacian of the atmospheric boundary layer temperature or with the downwind SST gradient. The first case corresponds to background situations of weak winds or of unstable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with an Ekman balance adjustment in the boundary layer. The second case corresponds to background situations of stable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with downward mixing of momentum. Concerning the divergence of the wind stress, it generally resembles downwind SST gradients for stable and unstable boundary layers, in agreement with past studies. For weak winds, a correlation with the temperature Laplacian is, however, found to some extent. In conclusion, our study reveals the importance of the large-scale wind conditions in modulating the surface atmospheric response with different responses in the divergences of surface wind and wind stress.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: G. Lapeyre, glapeyre@lmd.ens.fr

This article is included in the Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction Special Collection.

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