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Coupled Response of the Trade Wind, SST Gradient, and SST in the Caribbean Sea, and the Potential Impact on Loop Current's Interannual Variability

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  • 1 National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan, and Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, and National Central University, Jhongli, Taiwan
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Abstract

Air–sea coupling in the IntraAmerican seas (IAS; Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) is studied through analyses of observational data from satellite, reanalysis products, and in situ measurements. A strong coupling is found between the easterly trade wind −U and meridional SST gradient ∂T/∂y across a localized region of the southern-central Caribbean Sea from seasonal and interannual to decadal time scales. The ∂T/∂y anomaly is caused by a variation in the strength of coastal upwelling off the Venezuelan coast by the wind, which in turn strengthens (weakens) for stronger (weaker) ∂T/∂y. Wind speeds and seasonal fluctuations in IAS have increased in the past two decades with a transition near 1994 coinciding approximately with when the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) turned from cold to warm phases. In particular, the seasonal swing from summer's strong to fall's weak trade wind has become larger. The ocean's upper-layer depth has also deepened, by as much as 50% on average in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. These conditions favor the shedding of eddies from the Loop Current, making it more likely to shed at a biannual frequency, as has been observed from altimetry data.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-12-0183.s1.

Corresponding author address: L.-Y. Oey, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, 300 Forrestal Road, 114 Sayre Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540. E-mail: lyo@princeton.edu

Abstract

Air–sea coupling in the IntraAmerican seas (IAS; Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) is studied through analyses of observational data from satellite, reanalysis products, and in situ measurements. A strong coupling is found between the easterly trade wind −U and meridional SST gradient ∂T/∂y across a localized region of the southern-central Caribbean Sea from seasonal and interannual to decadal time scales. The ∂T/∂y anomaly is caused by a variation in the strength of coastal upwelling off the Venezuelan coast by the wind, which in turn strengthens (weakens) for stronger (weaker) ∂T/∂y. Wind speeds and seasonal fluctuations in IAS have increased in the past two decades with a transition near 1994 coinciding approximately with when the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) turned from cold to warm phases. In particular, the seasonal swing from summer's strong to fall's weak trade wind has become larger. The ocean's upper-layer depth has also deepened, by as much as 50% on average in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. These conditions favor the shedding of eddies from the Loop Current, making it more likely to shed at a biannual frequency, as has been observed from altimetry data.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-12-0183.s1.

Corresponding author address: L.-Y. Oey, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, 300 Forrestal Road, 114 Sayre Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540. E-mail: lyo@princeton.edu

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