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Seasonal Heat Budgets of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

Here, seasonal heat transport in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans is compared using a 49-year-long analysis based on data assimilation. In midlatitudes surface heat flux is largely balanced by seasonal storage, while equatorward of 15°N, divergence of heat transport balances seasonal storage. The seasonal cycle of heat transport in the Pacific is in phase with the annual migration of solar radiation, transporting heat from the warm hemisphere to the cool hemisphere. Analysis shows that the cycle is large with peak-to-peak shifts of 5 PW. To examine the cause of these large shifts, a vertical and zonal decomposition of the heat budget is carried out. Important contributions are found from the annual cycle of wind drift in the mixed layer and adiabatically compensating return flow, part of the vigorous shallow tropical overturning cell. The annual cycle of heat transport in the North Atlantic is also large. Here too, wind-driven transports play a role, although not as strongly as in the Pacific, and this is an important reason for the differences in heat transport between the basins. Analysis shows the extent to which seasonally varying geostrophic currents and seasonal diabatic effects are relatively more important in the Atlantic. Thus, although the annual cycle of zonally integrated mass transport in the mixed layer is only 1/5 as large, the time-averaged heat transport is nearly as large as in the Pacific. This difference in transport mechanics gives rise to changes in the phase of seasonal heat transport with latitude in the Atlantic.

Current affiliation: Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

Corresponding author address: James A. Carton, Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland at College Park, 3433 Computer and Space Science Building, College Park, MD 20742. Email: carton@atmos.umd.edu

Abstract

Here, seasonal heat transport in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans is compared using a 49-year-long analysis based on data assimilation. In midlatitudes surface heat flux is largely balanced by seasonal storage, while equatorward of 15°N, divergence of heat transport balances seasonal storage. The seasonal cycle of heat transport in the Pacific is in phase with the annual migration of solar radiation, transporting heat from the warm hemisphere to the cool hemisphere. Analysis shows that the cycle is large with peak-to-peak shifts of 5 PW. To examine the cause of these large shifts, a vertical and zonal decomposition of the heat budget is carried out. Important contributions are found from the annual cycle of wind drift in the mixed layer and adiabatically compensating return flow, part of the vigorous shallow tropical overturning cell. The annual cycle of heat transport in the North Atlantic is also large. Here too, wind-driven transports play a role, although not as strongly as in the Pacific, and this is an important reason for the differences in heat transport between the basins. Analysis shows the extent to which seasonally varying geostrophic currents and seasonal diabatic effects are relatively more important in the Atlantic. Thus, although the annual cycle of zonally integrated mass transport in the mixed layer is only 1/5 as large, the time-averaged heat transport is nearly as large as in the Pacific. This difference in transport mechanics gives rise to changes in the phase of seasonal heat transport with latitude in the Atlantic.

Current affiliation: Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

Corresponding author address: James A. Carton, Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland at College Park, 3433 Computer and Space Science Building, College Park, MD 20742. Email: carton@atmos.umd.edu

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