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U.S. West Coast Surface Heat Fluxes, Wind Stress, and Wind Stress Curl from a Mesoscale Model

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  • 1 Naval Research Laboratory, Marine Meteorology Division, Monterey, California
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Abstract

Monthly averages of numerical model fields are beneficial for depicting patterns in surface forcing such as sensible and latent heat fluxes, wind stress, and wind stress curl over data-sparse ocean regions. Grid resolutions less than 10 km provide the necessary mesoscale detail to characterize the impact of a complex coastline and coastal topography. In the present study a high-resolution mesoscale model is employed to reveal patterns in low-level winds, temperature, relative humidity, sea surface temperature as well as surface fluxes, over the eastern Pacific and along the U.S. west coast. Hourly output from successive 12-h forecasts are averaged to obtain monthly mean patterns from each season of 1999. The averages yield information on interactions between the ocean and the overlying atmosphere and on the influence of coastal terrain forcing in addition to their month-to-month variability.

The spring to summer transition is characterized by a dramatic shift in near-surface winds, temperature, and relative humidity as offshore regions of large upward surface fluxes diminish and an alongshore coastal flux gradient forms. Embedded within this gradient, and the imprint of strong summertime topographic forcing, are small-scale fluctuations that vary in concert with local changes in sea surface temperature. Potential feedbacks between the low-level wind, sea surface temperature, and the wind stress curl are explored in the coastal regime and offshore waters. In all seasons, offshore extensions of colder coastal waters impose a marked influence on low-level conditions by locally enhancing stability and reducing the wind speed, while buoy measurements along the coast indicate that sea surface temperatures and wind speeds tend to be negatively correlated.

Corresponding author address: Tracy Haack, Naval Research Laboratory, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Stop #2, Monterey, CA 93943-5502. Email: haack@nrlmry.navy.mil

Abstract

Monthly averages of numerical model fields are beneficial for depicting patterns in surface forcing such as sensible and latent heat fluxes, wind stress, and wind stress curl over data-sparse ocean regions. Grid resolutions less than 10 km provide the necessary mesoscale detail to characterize the impact of a complex coastline and coastal topography. In the present study a high-resolution mesoscale model is employed to reveal patterns in low-level winds, temperature, relative humidity, sea surface temperature as well as surface fluxes, over the eastern Pacific and along the U.S. west coast. Hourly output from successive 12-h forecasts are averaged to obtain monthly mean patterns from each season of 1999. The averages yield information on interactions between the ocean and the overlying atmosphere and on the influence of coastal terrain forcing in addition to their month-to-month variability.

The spring to summer transition is characterized by a dramatic shift in near-surface winds, temperature, and relative humidity as offshore regions of large upward surface fluxes diminish and an alongshore coastal flux gradient forms. Embedded within this gradient, and the imprint of strong summertime topographic forcing, are small-scale fluctuations that vary in concert with local changes in sea surface temperature. Potential feedbacks between the low-level wind, sea surface temperature, and the wind stress curl are explored in the coastal regime and offshore waters. In all seasons, offshore extensions of colder coastal waters impose a marked influence on low-level conditions by locally enhancing stability and reducing the wind speed, while buoy measurements along the coast indicate that sea surface temperatures and wind speeds tend to be negatively correlated.

Corresponding author address: Tracy Haack, Naval Research Laboratory, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Stop #2, Monterey, CA 93943-5502. Email: haack@nrlmry.navy.mil

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