National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

[Full Text]

FY 1991

Variability of the sea surface temperature in the eastern equatorial Pacific during 1986–88

Hayes, S.P., P. Chang, and M.J. McPhaden

J. Geophys. Res., 96(C6), 10,553–10,566, doi: 10.1029/91JC00942 (1991)

Time series of surface wind and upper ocean temperature and velocity, obtained from equatorial moorings along 110°W, are used to assess the importance of various oceanic and atmospheric processes in the variation of the mixed layer temperature for the period January 1986 to June 1988. This period coincides with the onset and development of the 1986-1987 El Niño-Southern Oscillation warm event and a subsequent cold event in 1988. Results of the temperature equation analyses indicate that seasonal and interannual variability of sea surface temperature (SST) in the eastern Pacific cannot be accounted for by observed surface heat flux; oceanic processes play an important role in the heating of the surface water. Although no single process dominated SST change, the most important processes in the mean balance were the net incoming surface heat flux, the penetrative solar radiation, and the vertical turbulent flux out the bottom of the mixed layer. The mean vertical entrainment could not be estimated with the available data. On the seasonal time scales, both the vertical turbulent heat flux and the vertical entrainment variations were well correlated with SST change. Zonal advection was a significant contribution to the heat flux variability, but its fluctuations were poorly correlated with the mixed layer heating. In particular, it was found that zonal advective heat flux tended to be out of phase with the spring warming. At higher frequencies, little zonal advective heat was found to be associated with the passage of a Kelvin event in January 1987. Surprisingly, meridional heat advection appeared more important than the zonal heat advection in modifying the local SST as this event passed the mooring location.

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