National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

The role of oceanic heat advection in the evolution of tropical North and South Atlantic SST anomalies

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

J. Climate, 19(23), 6122–6138, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3961.1 (2006)

The role of horizontal oceanic heat advection in the generation of tropical North and South Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is investigated through an analysis of the oceanic mixed layer heat balance. It is found that SST anomalies poleward of 10° are driven primarily by a combination of wind induced latent heat loss and shortwave radiation. Away from the eastern boundary, horizontal advection damps surface flux-forced SST anomalies due to a combination of mean meridional Ekman currents acting on anomalous meridional SST gradients, and anomalous meridional currents acting on the mean meridional SST gradient. Horizontal advection is likely to have the most significant effect on the inter hemispheric SST gradient mode through its impact in the 10°-20° latitude bands of each hemisphere, where the variability in advection is strongest and its negative correlation with the surface heat flux is highest. In addition to the damping effect of horizontal advection in these latitude bands, evidence for coupled wind-SST feedbacks is found, with anomalous equatorward (poleward) SST gradients contributing to enhanced (reduced) westward surface winds and an equatorward propagation of SST anomalies.

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