Response of Freshwater Flux and Sea Surface Salinity to Variability of the Atlantic Warm Pool

Chunzai Wang NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Florida

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Liping Zhang Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, and NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Florida, and Physical Oceanography Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China

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Sang-Ki Lee Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, and NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Florida

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Abstract

The response of freshwater flux and sea surface salinity (SSS) to the Atlantic warm pool (AWP) variations from seasonal to multidecadal time scales is investigated by using various reanalysis products and observations. All of the datasets show a consistent response for all time scales: A large (small) AWP is associated with a local freshwater gain (loss) to the ocean, less (more) moisture transport across Central America, and a local low (high) SSS. The moisture budget analysis demonstrates that the freshwater change is dominated by the atmospheric mean circulation dynamics, while the effect of thermodynamics is of secondary importance. Further decomposition points out that the contribution of the mean circulation dynamics primarily arises from its divergent part, which mainly reflects the wind divergent change in the low level as a result of SST change. In association with a large (small) AWP, warmer (colder) than normal SST over the tropical North Atlantic can induce anomalous low-level convergence (divergence), which favors anomalous ascent (decent) and thus generates more (less) precipitation. On the other hand, a large (small) AWP weakens (strengthens) the trade wind and its associated westward moisture transport to the eastern North Pacific across Central America, which also favors more (less) moisture residing in the Atlantic and hence more (less) precipitation. The results imply that variability of freshwater flux and ocean salinity in the North Atlantic associated with the AWP may have the potential to affect the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Chunzai Wang, NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. E-mail: chunzai.wang@noaa.gov

Abstract

The response of freshwater flux and sea surface salinity (SSS) to the Atlantic warm pool (AWP) variations from seasonal to multidecadal time scales is investigated by using various reanalysis products and observations. All of the datasets show a consistent response for all time scales: A large (small) AWP is associated with a local freshwater gain (loss) to the ocean, less (more) moisture transport across Central America, and a local low (high) SSS. The moisture budget analysis demonstrates that the freshwater change is dominated by the atmospheric mean circulation dynamics, while the effect of thermodynamics is of secondary importance. Further decomposition points out that the contribution of the mean circulation dynamics primarily arises from its divergent part, which mainly reflects the wind divergent change in the low level as a result of SST change. In association with a large (small) AWP, warmer (colder) than normal SST over the tropical North Atlantic can induce anomalous low-level convergence (divergence), which favors anomalous ascent (decent) and thus generates more (less) precipitation. On the other hand, a large (small) AWP weakens (strengthens) the trade wind and its associated westward moisture transport to the eastern North Pacific across Central America, which also favors more (less) moisture residing in the Atlantic and hence more (less) precipitation. The results imply that variability of freshwater flux and ocean salinity in the North Atlantic associated with the AWP may have the potential to affect the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Chunzai Wang, NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. E-mail: chunzai.wang@noaa.gov
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