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Lisan Yu

Abstract

The existence of a cool and salty sea surface skin under evaporation was first proposed by Saunders in 1967, but few efforts have since been made to perceive the salt component of the skin layer. With two salinity missions scheduled to launch in the coming years, this study attempted to revisit the Saunders concept and to utilize presently available air–sea forcing datasets to analyze, understand, and interpret the effect of the salty skin and its implication for remote sensing of ocean salinity.

Similar to surface cooling, the skin salinification would occur primarily at low and midlatitudes in regions that are characterized by low winds or high evaporation. On average, the skin is saltier than the interior water by 0.05–0.15 psu and cooler by 0.2°–0.5°C. The cooler and saltier skin at the top is always statically unstable, and the tendency to overturn is controlled by cooling. Once the skin layer overturns, the time to reestablish the full increase of skin salinity was reported to be on the order of 15 min, which is approximately 90 times slower than that for skin temperature. Because the radiation received from a footprint is averaged over an area to give a single pixel value, the slow recovery by the salt diffusion process might cause a slight reduction in area-averaged skin salinity and thus obscure the salty skin effect on radiometer retrievals. In the presence of many geophysical error sources in remote sensing of ocean salinity, the salt enrichment at the surface skin does not appear to be a concern.

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Lisan Yu

Abstract

Global estimates of oceanic evaporation (Evp) from 1958 to 2005 have been recently developed by the Objectively Analyzed Air–Sea Fluxes (OAFlux) project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The nearly 50-yr time series shows that the decadal change of the global oceanic evaporation (Evp) is marked by a distinct transition from a downward trend to an upward trend around 1977–78. Since the transition, the global oceanic Evp has been up about 11 cm yr−1 (∼10%), from a low at 103 cm yr−1 in 1977 to a peak at 114 cm yr−1 in 2003. The increase in Evp was most dramatic during the 1990s. The uncertainty of the estimates is about ±2.74 cm yr−1. By utilizing the newly developed datasets of Evp and related air–sea variables, the study investigated the cause of the decadal change in oceanic Evp. The decadal differences between the 1990s and the 1970s indicates that the increase of Evp in the 1990s occurred over a global scale and had spatially coherent structures. Larger Evp is most pronounced in two key regions—one is the paths of the global western boundary currents and their extensions, and the other is the tropical Indo-Pacific warm water pools. It is also found that Evp was enlarged primarily during the hemispheric wintertime (defined as the mean of December–February for the northern oceans and June–August for the southern oceans). Despite the dominant upward tendency over the global basins, a slight reduction in Evp appeared in such regions as the subtropical centers of the Evp maxima as well as the eastern equatorial Pacific and Atlantic cold tongues.

An empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis was performed for the yearly winter-mean time series of Evp and the related air–sea variables [i.e., wind speed (U) and air–sea humidity differences (dq)]. The analysis suggested a dominant role of the wind forcing in the decadal change of both Evp and dq. It is hypothesized that wind impacts Evp in two ways. The first way is direct: the greater wind speed induces more evaporation by carrying water vapor away from the evaporating surface to allow the air–sea humidity gradients to be reestablished at a faster pace. The second way is indirect: the enhanced surface wind strengthens the wind-driven subtropical gyre, which in turn drives a greater heat transport by the western boundary currents, warms up SST along the paths of the currents and extensions, and causes more evaporation by enlarging the air–sea humidity gradients. The EOF analysis performed for the time series of the global annual-mean Evp fields showed that the first three EOF modes account for nearly 50% of the total variance. The mode 1 variability represents the upward trend in Evp after 1978 and is attributable to the increased U, and the mode 2 variability explains much of the downward trend in Evp before 1978 and is correlated to the global dq variability. The EOF mode 3 of Evp captures the interannual variability of Evp on time scales of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, with the center of action over the eastern equatorial Pacific.

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Jiayan Yang and Lisan Yu

Abstract

The WKBJ method and a multiple-scale expansion technique are used to study equatorially trapped waves propagating on a zonally sloping themocline. Assuming that variations of the main thermocline depth (MTD) are slow (the change of the MTD over one wavelength is smaller than the wave amplitude), wave reflections can be neglected and the amplitudes of equatorially trapped waves can be derived by using the energy conservation law. It is found that the wavelengths and amplitudes of free waves are significantly modified by the MTD variations. While propagating eastward in an ocean basin (where the MTD is shallower), Kelvin waves shrink meridionally and zonally but their amplitudes increase to preserve wave energy; short Rossby waves behave in the opposite way. The wavelength of westward-propagating long Rossby waves becomes longer when they propagate into the deeper western ocean. The response of a Yanai wave to the changing thermocline depends on the sign of phase speed.

A simple numerical method is designed to verify the WKBJ results and also to study the cast of a relatively steep thermocline profile where the WKBJ method breaks down. Reflection of a Kelvin wave impinging on a thermocline front is also investigated in this work.

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Xiangzhou Song and Lisan Yu

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The study examined global variability of air–sea sensible heat flux (SHF) from 1980 to 2009 and the large-scale atmospheric and ocean circulations that gave rise to this variability. The contribution of high-latitude wintertime SHF was identified, and the relative importance of the effect of the sea–air temperature difference versus the effect of wind on decadal SHF variability was analyzed using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) approach. The study showed that global SHF anomalies are strongly modulated by SHF at high latitudes (poleward of 45°) during winter seasons. Decadal variability of global wintertime SHF can be reasonably represented by the sum of two leading EOF modes, namely, the boreal wintertime SHF in the northern oceans and the austral wintertime SHF in the southern oceans. The study also showed that global wintertime SHF is modulated by the prominent modes of the large-scale atmospheric circulation at high latitudes. The increase of global SHF in the 1990s is attributable to the strengthening of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode index, while the decrease of global SHF after 2000 is due primarily to the downward trend of the Arctic Oscillation index. This study identified the important effects of wind direction and speed on SHF variability. Changes in winds modify the sea–air temperature gradient by advecting cold and dry air from continents and by imposing changes in wind-driven oceanic processes that affect sea surface temperature (SST). The pattern of air temperature anomalies dominates over the pattern of SST anomalies and dictates the pattern of decadal SHF variability.

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Xinfeng Liang and Lisan Yu

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An assessment is made of the mean and variability of the net air–sea heat flux, Q net, from four products (ECCO, OAFlux–CERES, ERA-Interim, and NCEP1) over the global ice-free ocean from January 2001 to December 2010. For the 10-yr “hiatus” period, all products agree on an overall net heat gain over the global ice-free ocean, but the magnitude varies from 1.7 to 9.5 W m−2. The differences among products are particularly large in the Southern Ocean, where they cannot even agree on whether the region gains or loses heat on the annual mean basis. Decadal trends of Q net differ significantly between products. ECCO and OAFlux–CERES show almost no trend, whereas ERA-Interim suggests a downward trend and NCEP1 shows an upward trend. Therefore, numerical simulations utilizing different surface flux forcing products will likely produce diverged trends of the ocean heat content during this period. The downward trend in ERA-Interim started from 2006, driven by a peculiar pattern change in the tropical regions. ECCO, which used ERA-Interim as initial surface forcings and is constrained by ocean dynamics and ocean observations, corrected the pattern. Among the four products, ECCO and OAFlux–CERES show great similarities in the examined spatial and temporal patterns. Given that the two estimates were obtained using different approaches and based on largely independent observations, these similarities are encouraging and instructive. It is more likely that the global net air–sea heat flux does not change much during the so-called hiatus period.

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Eli Tziperman and Lisan Yu

Abstract

The correlation between parameters characterizing observed westerly wind bursts (WWBs) in the equatorial Pacific and the large-scale SST is analyzed using singular value decomposition. The WWB parameters include the amplitude, location, scale, and probability of occurrence for a given SST distribution rather than the wind stress itself. This approach therefore allows for a nonlinear relationship between the SST and the wind signal of the WWBs. It is found that about half of the variance of the WWB parameters is explained by only two large-scale SST modes. The first mode represents a developed El Niño event, while the second mode represents the seasonal cycle. More specifically, the central longitude of WWBs, their longitudinal extent, and their probability seem to be determined to a significant degree by the ENSO-driven signal. The amplitude of the WWBs is found to be strongly influenced by the phase of the seasonal cycle. It is concluded that the WWBs, while partially stochastic, seem an inherent part of the large-scale deterministic ENSO dynamics. Implications for ENSO predictability and prediction are discussed.

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Lisan Yu and Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli

Abstract

An ocean general circulation model (OGCM) of the North Atlantic Ocean is fitted to the monthly averaged climatological temperatures and salinities of Levitus using the adjoint method, representing a significant step forward with respect to previous steady OGCM assimilations. The inverse approach has two important advantages over purely prognostic calculations: (i) it provides an estimate of the North Atlantic circulation and of its seasonal variability, which is optimally consistent with the OGCM dynamics and with the assimilated hydrography; (ii) it provides optimal estimates of the monthly surface heat and freshwater fluxes consistent with the used climatology, which are the most poorly known surface forcing functions.

Seasonality is ensured by penalizing field differences between month 13 and month 1 of the forward time integration within each iteration of the adjoint procedure. The primary goal of this work is to estimate large-scale oceanic properties important for climate issues and how they are affected by the inclusion of the seasonal cycle. The resultant meridional overturning displays significant seasonal variations. The surface Ekman cell centered at 35°N reaches a maximum intensity of ∼7 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) in wintertime, while the North Atlantic Deep Water cell reaches a maximum strength of ∼19 Sv in summertime. Its annual average is of ∼17 Sv, in good agreement with the recent estimate of Schmitz and McCartney. The poleward heat transport exhibits the strongest seasonal variations, reaching its maximum value of 0.85 × 1015 W at ∼25°N in summertime or 0.85 PW (1 PW = 1015 W). The annual average at 25°N is ∼0.7 PW, weaker than observational estimates. The dynamical analysis indicates that the wind forcing is the controlling factor for these variations by controlling the time-varying Ekman cell.

Comparison with previous steady-state optimizations of Yu and Malanotte-Rizzoli shows that the optimization with seasonal forcing produces three major improvements in the inverse results. First, the inclusion of the seasonal cycle greatly improves the estimated hydrography (temperature and salinity fields) by eliminating the basinwide cold bias in the upper ocean and the warm bias in the deep ocean found in the steady-state inversions. As a consequence, the velocity fields are also significantly improved, with a tight and strong Gulf Stream jet.

Second, the monthly optimal estimates of surface heat and freshwater fluxes provide an annual average resembling closely the observational climatological means, a striking contrast to the fluxes estimated in the steady assimilation.

Finally, the most important improvement is in the estimate of the poleward heat transport. The annual mean meridional heat transport shows an increase of ∼0.2 PW at all latitudes with respect to the steady-state heat transport, thus demonstrating the importance of rectification effects of the seasonal cycle.

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Lisan Yu and Michael J. McPhaden

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An in-depth data analysis was conducted to understand the occurrence of a strong sea surface temperature (SST) front in the central Bay of Bengal before the formation of Cyclone Nargis in April 2008. Nargis changed its course after encountering the front and tracked along the front until making landfall. One unique feature of this SST front was its coupling with high sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs), which is unusual for a basin where SST is normally uncorrelated with SSHA. The high SSHAs were associated with downwelling Rossby waves, and the interaction between downwelling and surface fresh waters was a key mechanism to account for the observed SST–SSHA coupling.

The near-surface salinity field in the bay is characterized by strong stratification and a pronounced horizontal gradient, with low salinity in the northeast. During the passage of downwelling Rossby waves, freshening of the surface layer was observed when surface velocities were southwestward. Horizontal convergence of freshwater associated with downwelling Rossby waves increased the buoyancy of the upper layer and caused the mixed layer to shoal to within a few meters of the surface. Surface heating trapped in the thin mixed layer caused the fresh layer to warm, whereas the increase in buoyancy from low-salinity waters enhanced the high SSHA associated with Rossby waves. Thus, high SST coincided with high SSHA.

The dominant role of salinity in controlling high SSHA suggests that caution should be exercised when computing hurricane heat potential in the bay from SSHA. This situation is different from most tropical oceans, where temperature has the dominant effect on SSHA.

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Lisan Yu and Robert A. Weller

A 25-yr (1981–2005) time series of daily latent and sensible heat fluxes over the global ice-free oceans has been produced by synthesizing surface meteorology obtained from satellite remote sensing and atmospheric model reanalyses outputs. The project, named Objectively Analyzed Air–Sea Fluxes (OAFlux), was developed from an initial study of the Atlantic Ocean that demonstrated that such data synthesis improves daily flux estimates over the basin scale. This paper introduces the 25-yr heat flux analysis and documents variability of the global ocean heat flux fields on seasonal, interannual, decadal, and longer time scales suggested by the new dataset.

The study showed that, among all the climate signals investigated, the most striking is a long-term increase in latent heat flux that dominates the data record. The globally averaged latent heat flux increased by roughly 9 W m−2 between the low in 1981 and the peak in 2002, which amounted to about a 10% increase in the mean value over the 25-yr period. Positive linear trends appeared on a global scale, and were most significant over the tropical Indian and western Pacific warm pool and the boundary current regions. The increase in latent heat flux was in concert with the rise of sea surface temperature, suggesting a response of the atmosphere to oceanic forcing.

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Lisan Yu and James J. O'Brien

Abstract

No abstract available.

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