National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

Diurnal warming rectification in the tropical Pacific linked to sea surface temperature front

Cronin, M.F., D. Zhang, S.M. Wills, J.E. Reeves Eyre, L.-A. Thompson, and N. Anderson

Nature Geosci., doi: 10.1038/s41561-024-01391-8, View open access article at Nature Publishing (external link) (2024)

Sharp and rapid changes in the sea surface temperature (SST) associated with fronts and the diurnal cycle can drive changes in the atmospheric boundary-layer stability and circulation. Here we show how a one-dimensional surface ocean model forced with either high-resolution or daily averaged surface fluxes can be used to distinguish diurnal versus frontal SST anomalies observed from an uncrewed surface vehicle. The model, forced with daily satellite fluxes, shows that the diurnal warming is largest within the equatorial Pacific cold tongue of SST. The strong persistent SST front north of the cold tongue is evident in both the oceanic and atmospheric boundary-layer stability scales and, as a consequence, in the magnitude of the diurnal ocean warming. Using SST, barometric pressure and surface wind measurements from moorings at 0°, 95° W and 2° N, 95° W, we show that the front in the SST diurnal warming results in a weakened SST front in the afternoon and a corresponding reduced meridional gradient in the barometric pressure that appears to contribute to a diurnal pulsing of the surface meridional winds. To the extent that these modulate the surface branch of the Hadley cell, these diurnal variations may have remote impacts.

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