National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2006

Mixed layer heat balance on intraseasonal time scales in the northwestern tropical Atlantic Ocean

Foltz, G.R., and M.J. McPhaden

J. Climate, 18(20), 4168–4184, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3531.1 (2005)

Recent observations have shown evidence of intraseasonal oscillations (with periods of approximately 1-2 months) in the northern and southern tropical Atlantic trade winds. In this paper, the oceanic response to the observed intraseasonal wind variability is addressed through an analysis of the surface mixed layer heat balance, focusing on three locations in the northwestern tropical Atlantic where in situ measurements from moored buoys are available (14.5°N, 51°W; 15°N, 38°W; and 18° , 34°W). It is found that local heat storage at all three locations is balanced primarily by wind-induced latent heat loss, which is the same mechanism that is believed to play a dominant role on interannual and decadal time scales in the region. It is also found that the intraseasonal wind speed oscillations are linked to changes in surface wind convergence and convection over the western equatorial Atlantic warm pool. These atmospheric circulation anomalies and wind-induced SST anomalies potentially feed back on one another to affect longer time-scale variability in the region.

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