83rd Annual

Wednesday, 12 February 2003: 2:00 PM
Satellite Observations of Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction Over SST Fronts
Dudley B. Chelton, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR; and S. P. Xie
The three-year QuikSCAT scatterometer record of high-resolution observations of surface winds with spatially and temporally dense coverage has revealed a remarkably strong relation between sea surface temperature (SST) and surface winds in regions of strong SST gradients. The detailed structure of the wind response to SST suggests that the dominant mechanism responsible for the coupling is SST-induced modification of the stability of the marine atmospheric boundary layer. This ocean-atmosphere interaction over SST fronts is apparently a global phenomenon. The results from recent analyses of QuikSCAT data in the eastern tropical Pacific, the Kuroshio Extension and the Southern Ocean will be summarized. While relationships between SST and surface winds have been documented in a few case studies from in situ data, the intensity and prevalence of this coupling has not previously been appreciated because it is barely detectable in the analyzed surface wind fields from operational weather forecast models. Implications about the importance of this ocean-atmosphere interaction to the dynamics and thermodynamics of atmospheric and oceanic circulation will be discussed.

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