High-Latitude Contribution to Global Variability of Air–Sea Sensible Heat Flux

Xiangzhou Song Physical Oceanography Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China, and Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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Lisan Yu Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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Abstract

The study examined global variability of air–sea sensible heat flux (SHF) from 1980 to 2009 and the large-scale atmospheric and ocean circulations that gave rise to this variability. The contribution of high-latitude wintertime SHF was identified, and the relative importance of the effect of the sea–air temperature difference versus the effect of wind on decadal SHF variability was analyzed using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) approach. The study showed that global SHF anomalies are strongly modulated by SHF at high latitudes (poleward of 45°) during winter seasons. Decadal variability of global wintertime SHF can be reasonably represented by the sum of two leading EOF modes, namely, the boreal wintertime SHF in the northern oceans and the austral wintertime SHF in the southern oceans. The study also showed that global wintertime SHF is modulated by the prominent modes of the large-scale atmospheric circulation at high latitudes. The increase of global SHF in the 1990s is attributable to the strengthening of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode index, while the decrease of global SHF after 2000 is due primarily to the downward trend of the Arctic Oscillation index. This study identified the important effects of wind direction and speed on SHF variability. Changes in winds modify the sea–air temperature gradient by advecting cold and dry air from continents and by imposing changes in wind-driven oceanic processes that affect sea surface temperature (SST). The pattern of air temperature anomalies dominates over the pattern of SST anomalies and dictates the pattern of decadal SHF variability.

Corresponding author address: Xiangzhou Song, Physical Oceanography Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, China. E-mail: oucsxz@ouc.edu.cn

This article is included in the CLIVAR/SeaFlux special collection.

Abstract

The study examined global variability of air–sea sensible heat flux (SHF) from 1980 to 2009 and the large-scale atmospheric and ocean circulations that gave rise to this variability. The contribution of high-latitude wintertime SHF was identified, and the relative importance of the effect of the sea–air temperature difference versus the effect of wind on decadal SHF variability was analyzed using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) approach. The study showed that global SHF anomalies are strongly modulated by SHF at high latitudes (poleward of 45°) during winter seasons. Decadal variability of global wintertime SHF can be reasonably represented by the sum of two leading EOF modes, namely, the boreal wintertime SHF in the northern oceans and the austral wintertime SHF in the southern oceans. The study also showed that global wintertime SHF is modulated by the prominent modes of the large-scale atmospheric circulation at high latitudes. The increase of global SHF in the 1990s is attributable to the strengthening of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode index, while the decrease of global SHF after 2000 is due primarily to the downward trend of the Arctic Oscillation index. This study identified the important effects of wind direction and speed on SHF variability. Changes in winds modify the sea–air temperature gradient by advecting cold and dry air from continents and by imposing changes in wind-driven oceanic processes that affect sea surface temperature (SST). The pattern of air temperature anomalies dominates over the pattern of SST anomalies and dictates the pattern of decadal SHF variability.

Corresponding author address: Xiangzhou Song, Physical Oceanography Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, China. E-mail: oucsxz@ouc.edu.cn

This article is included in the CLIVAR/SeaFlux special collection.

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