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Markus Jochum, Raghu Murtugudde, Raffaele Ferrari, and Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli

Abstract

An ocean general circulation model (OGCM) of the tropical Atlantic is coupled to an advective atmospheric boundary layer model. This configuration is used to investigate the hypothesis that resolving tropical instability waves (TIWs) in OGCMs will remove the equatorial cold bias that is a feature common to coarse-resolution OGCMs. It is shown that current eddy parameterizations cannot capture the TIW heat flux because diffusion in coarse-resolution OGCMs removes heat from the warm pool to heat the equatorial cold tongue, whereas TIWs draw their heat mostly from the atmosphere. Thus, they can bring more heat to the equatorial cold tongue without cooling the warm pool, and the SST in the warm pool is higher and more realistic. Contrary to expectations, the SST in the equatorial cold tongue is not significantly improved. The equatorial warming due to TIWs is slightly greater than the warming due to diffusion, but this increased equatorial heat flux in the high-resolution experiment is compensated by increased equatorial entrainment there. This is attributed to the Equatorial Undercurrent being stronger, thereby increasing the entrainment rate through shear instability. Thus, higher resolution does not significantly increase the total oceanic heat flux convergence in the equatorial mixed layer.

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