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Semyon A. Grodsky, Abderrahim Bentamy, James A. Carton, and Rachel T. Pinker

Abstract

Weekly average satellite-based estimates of latent heat flux (LHTFL) are used to characterize spatial patterns and temporal variability in the intraseasonal band (periods shorter than 3 months). As expected, the major portion of intraseasonal variability of LHTFL is due to winds, but spatial variability of humidity and SST are also important. The strongest intraseasonal variability of LHTFL is observed at the midlatitudes. It weakens toward the equator, reflecting weak variance of intraseasonal winds at low latitudes. It also decreases at high latitudes, reflecting the effect of decreased SST and the related decrease of time-mean humidity difference between heights z = 10 m and z = 0 m. Within the midlatitude belts the intraseasonal variability of LHTFL is locally stronger (up to 50 W m−2) in regions of major SST fronts (like the Gulf Stream and Agulhas). Here it is forced by passing storms and is locally amplified by unstable air over warm SSTs. Although weaker in amplitude (but still significant), intraseasonal variability of LHTFL is observed in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans due to wind and humidity perturbations produced by the Madden–Julian oscillations. In this tropical region intraseasonal LHTFL and incoming solar radiation vary out of phase so that evaporation increases just below the convective clusters.

Over much of the interior ocean where the surface heat flux dominates the ocean mixed layer heat budget, intraseasonal SST cools in response to anomalously strong upward intraseasonal LHTFL. This response varies geographically, in part because of geographic variations of mixed layer depth and the resulting variations in thermal inertia. In contrast, in the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic cold tongue regions intraseasonal SST and LHTFL are positively correlated. This surprising result occurs because in these equatorial upwelling areas SST is controlled by advection rather than by surface fluxes. Here LHTFL responds to rather than drives SST.

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J. A. Curry, A. Bentamy, M. A. Bourassa, D. Bourras, E. F. Bradley, M. Brunke, S. Castro, S. H. Chou, C. A. Clayson, W. J. Emery, L. Eymard, C. W. Fairall, M. Kubota, B. Lin, W. Perrie, R. A. Reeder, I. A. Renfrew, W. B. Rossow, J. Schulz, S. R. Smith, P. J. Webster, G. A. Wick, and X. Zeng

High-resolution surface fluxes over the global ocean are needed to evaluate coupled atmosphere–ocean models and weather forecasting models, provide surface forcing for ocean models, understand the regional and temporal variations of the exchange of heat between the atmosphere and ocean, and provide a large-scale context for field experiments. Under the auspices of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) Radiation Panel, the SEAFLUX Project has been initiated to investigate producing a high-resolution satellite-based dataset of surface turbulent fluxes over the global oceans to complement the existing products for surface radiation fluxes and precipitation. The SEAFLUX Project includes the following elements: a library of in situ data, with collocated satellite data to be used in the evaluation and improvement of global flux products; organized intercomparison projects, to evaluate and improve bulk flux models and determination from the satellite of the input parameters; and coordinated evaluation of the flux products in the context of applications, such as forcing ocean models and evaluation of coupled atmosphere–ocean models. The objective of this paper is to present an overview of the status of global ocean surface flux products, the methodology being used by SEAFLUX, and the prospects for improvement of satellite-derived flux products.

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