Abstract

Using buoy observations from 2004 to 2010 and newly released atmospheric reanalysis and satellite altimetry-derived geostrophic currents from 1993 to 2017, the quantitative contribution of daily mean surface currents to air-sea turbulent heat flux and wind stress uncertainties in the Gulf Stream (GS) region is investigated based on bulk formulas. At four buoy stations, the daily mean latent (sensible) heat flux difference between the estimates with and without surface currents ranges from -18 (-4) to 20 (4) Wm-2, while the daily mean wind stress difference ranges from -0.04 to 0.02 Nm-2. The positive values indicate higher estimates with opposite directions between surface currents and absolute winds. The transition between positive and negative differences is significantly associated with synoptic-scale weather variations. The uncertainties based on buoy observations are approximately 7% and 3% for wind stress and turbulent heat fluxes, respectively. The new reanalysis and satellite geostrophic currents confirm the uncertainties identified by buoy observations with acceptable discrepancies and provide a spatial view of the uncertainty fields. The mean geostrophic currents are aligned with the surface wind along the GS; therefore, the turbulent heat fluxes and wind stress will be ‘underestimated’ with surface currents included. However, on both sides of the GS, the surface flow can be upwind due to possible mechanisms of eddy-mean flow interactions and recirculations, resulting in higher turbulent heat flux estimations. The wind stress and turbulent heat flux uncertainties experience significant seasonal variations and show long-term trends.

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