Satellite Observations of Cool Ocean–Atmosphere Interaction

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Over most of the World Ocean, sea surface temperature (SST) is below 26°C and atmospheric deep convection rarely takes place. Cool ocean–atmosphere interaction is poorly understood and this lack of understanding is a stumbling block in the current effort to study non-ENSO climate variability. Using new satellite observations, the response of surface wind and low clouds to changes in SST is investigated over cool oceans, where the planetary boundary layer (PBL) is often capped by a temperature inversion. While one-way atmospheric forcing is a major mechanism for basinscale SST variability in the extratropics, clear wind response is detected in regions of strong ocean currents. In particular, SST modulation of vertical momentum mixing emerges as the dominant mechanism for SST-induced wind variability near oceanic fronts around the world, which is characterized by a positive SST–wind speed correlation. Several types of boundary layer cloud response are found, whose correlation with SST varies from positive to negative, depending on the role of surface moisture convergence. Noting that the surface moisture convergence is strongly scale dependent, it is proposed that horizontal scale is important for setting the sign of this SST–cloud correlation. Finally, the processes by which a shallow PBL response might lead to a deep, tropospheric-scale response and the implications for the study of extratropical basin-scale air–sea interaction are discussed.

*International Pacific Research Center Contribution Number 239 and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Contribution Number 6261.

International Pacific Research Center and Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Shang-Ping Xie , IPRC/SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa; 1680 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, E-mail: xie@hawaii.edu

Over most of the World Ocean, sea surface temperature (SST) is below 26°C and atmospheric deep convection rarely takes place. Cool ocean–atmosphere interaction is poorly understood and this lack of understanding is a stumbling block in the current effort to study non-ENSO climate variability. Using new satellite observations, the response of surface wind and low clouds to changes in SST is investigated over cool oceans, where the planetary boundary layer (PBL) is often capped by a temperature inversion. While one-way atmospheric forcing is a major mechanism for basinscale SST variability in the extratropics, clear wind response is detected in regions of strong ocean currents. In particular, SST modulation of vertical momentum mixing emerges as the dominant mechanism for SST-induced wind variability near oceanic fronts around the world, which is characterized by a positive SST–wind speed correlation. Several types of boundary layer cloud response are found, whose correlation with SST varies from positive to negative, depending on the role of surface moisture convergence. Noting that the surface moisture convergence is strongly scale dependent, it is proposed that horizontal scale is important for setting the sign of this SST–cloud correlation. Finally, the processes by which a shallow PBL response might lead to a deep, tropospheric-scale response and the implications for the study of extratropical basin-scale air–sea interaction are discussed.

*International Pacific Research Center Contribution Number 239 and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Contribution Number 6261.

International Pacific Research Center and Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Shang-Ping Xie , IPRC/SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa; 1680 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, E-mail: xie@hawaii.edu
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