Ocean submesoscales as a key component of the global heat budget

Type Article
Date 2018-02
Language English
Author(s) Su Zhan1, 2, Wang JinboORCID1, Klein Patrice1, 2, 3, Thompson Andrew F.2, Menemenlis DimitrisORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : CALTECH, Jet Prop Lab, 4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena, CA 91109 USA.
2 : CALTECH, Environm Sci & Engn, Pasadena, CA 91125 USA.
3 : Lab Oceanog Phys & Spatiale, F-29200 Brest, France.
Source Nature Communications (2041-1723) (Nature Publishing Group), 2018-02 , Vol. 9 , N. 775 , P. 8p.
DOI 10.1038/s41467-018-02983-w
WOS© Times Cited 240

Recent studies highlight that oceanic motions associated with horizontal scales smaller than 50 km, defined here as submesoscales, lead to anomalous vertical heat fluxes from colder to warmer waters. This unique transport property is not captured in climate models that have insufficient resolution to simulate these submesoscale dynamics. Here, we use an ocean model with an unprecedented resolution that, for the first time, globally resolves submesoscale heat transport. Upper-ocean submesoscale turbulence produces a systematicallyupward heat transport that is five times larger than mesoscale heat transport, with wintertime averages up to 100 W/m2 for mid-latitudes. Compared to a lower-resolution model, submesoscale heat transport warms the sea surface up to 0.3 °C and produces an upward annual-mean air–sea heat flux anomaly of 4–10 W/m2 at mid-latitudes. These results indicate that submesoscale dynamics are critical to the transport of heat between the ocean interior and the atmosphere, and are thus a key component of the Earth’s climate.

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