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Variability and Trends in Surface Meteorology and Air–Sea Fluxes at a Site off Northern Chile

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Time series of surface meteorology and air–sea exchanges of heat, freshwater, and momentum collected from a long-term surface mooring located 1600 km west of the coast of northern Chile are analyzed. The observations, spanning 2000–10, have been withheld from assimilation into numerical weather prediction models. As such, they provide a unique in situ record of atmosphere–ocean coupling in a trade wind region characterized by persistent stratocumulus clouds. The annual cycle is described, as is the interannual variability. Annual variability in the air–sea heat flux is dominated by the annual cycle in net shortwave radiation. In austral summer, the ocean is heated; the 9-yr mean annual heating of the ocean is 38 W m−2. Ocean cooling is seen in 2006–08, coincident with La Niña events. Over the full record, significant trends were found. Increases in wind speed, wind stress, and latent heat flux over 9 yr were 0.8 m s−1, 0.022 N m−2, and 20 W m−2 or 13%, 29%, and 20% of the respective 9-yr means. The decrease in the annual mean net heat flux was 39 W m−2 or 104% of the mean. These changes were found to be largely associated with spring and fall. If this change persists, the annual mean net air–sea heat flux will change sign by 2016, when the magnitude of the wind stress will have increased by close to 60%.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Robert A. Weller, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: rweller@whoi.edu

Abstract

Time series of surface meteorology and air–sea exchanges of heat, freshwater, and momentum collected from a long-term surface mooring located 1600 km west of the coast of northern Chile are analyzed. The observations, spanning 2000–10, have been withheld from assimilation into numerical weather prediction models. As such, they provide a unique in situ record of atmosphere–ocean coupling in a trade wind region characterized by persistent stratocumulus clouds. The annual cycle is described, as is the interannual variability. Annual variability in the air–sea heat flux is dominated by the annual cycle in net shortwave radiation. In austral summer, the ocean is heated; the 9-yr mean annual heating of the ocean is 38 W m−2. Ocean cooling is seen in 2006–08, coincident with La Niña events. Over the full record, significant trends were found. Increases in wind speed, wind stress, and latent heat flux over 9 yr were 0.8 m s−1, 0.022 N m−2, and 20 W m−2 or 13%, 29%, and 20% of the respective 9-yr means. The decrease in the annual mean net heat flux was 39 W m−2 or 104% of the mean. These changes were found to be largely associated with spring and fall. If this change persists, the annual mean net air–sea heat flux will change sign by 2016, when the magnitude of the wind stress will have increased by close to 60%.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Robert A. Weller, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: rweller@whoi.edu
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