Latent and sensible heat flux anomalies over the Northern Oceans: Driving the sea surface temperature

Cayan, DR.  1992.  Latent and sensible heat flux anomalies over the Northern Oceans: Driving the sea surface temperature. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 22:859-881.

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model, pacific-ocean, patterns, tropical pacific, variability, winter


A part of the large-scale thermodynamic forcing of the upper ocean is examined by relating monthly anomalous latent and sensible heat flux to changes in sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the North Atlantic and North Pacific. The fluxes are estimated using bulk formulas from a set of about four decades of marine observations from the COADS dataset from 1946 to 1986. Monthly anomalies are constructed by removing the long-term monthly means. The latent and sensible flux anomalies are strongly correlated over most of the ocean, so they are considered together as a sum. The heat flux estimates contain large spatial-scale anomalies consistent with both atmospheric circulation anomalies and with month-to-month changes (tendencies) in monthly SST anomalies. The monthly flux anomalies and the SST anomaly tendency are significantly con-elated over much of the oceans, with anomalous positive/negative fluxes associated with anomalous cooling/warming. The connection between the flux and the SST tendency anomalies is strongest in the extratropics during the cool season when the latent and sensible fluxes and their variability are greatest, and the radiative fluxes are weakest. While the heat flux forcing of the SST anomalies operates locally, the flux and SST tendency anomalies are organized over spatial scales that often span major portions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific. For each basin, canonical correlations expose large-scale, collocated anomaly patterns in the two fields. These patterns reflect the control exerted by the large-scale atmospheric circulation, inferred from sea level pressure (SLP) modes. Evidence for this result is the strong similarity in the configuration of anomalous flux and SST tendency patterns in their association with major SLP modes. Typical flux anomalies of 50 W m-2 are associated with monthly SST anomaly changes of order 0.2-degrees-C. The surface-layer thickness inferred from a simplified model relating the flux anomalies to the temperature anomalies of a slab ocean is consistent in magnitude and seasonal cycle with the observed mixed-layer depth in middle latitudes.