Disentangling the Mesoscale Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions

Type Article
Date 2019-03
Language English
Author(s) Renault L.1, 2, Masson S.3, Oerder V.4, 5, Jullien SwenORCID6, Colas François7
Affiliation(s) 1 : LEGOS, University of Toulouse, IRD, CNRS, CNES, UPS; Toulouse France
2 : University Of California; Los Angeles USA
3 : Sorbonne Universites (UPMC, Univ Paris 06)-CNRS-IRD-MNHN, LOCEAN Laboratory; 4 place Jussieu Paris F-75005 France
4 : Escuela de Ciencias del Mar, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso (PUCV); Casilla 1020 Valparaiso 2340000 Chile
5 : Millennium Institute of Oceanography (IMO), University of Concepcion; P.O. Box 1313, Concepcion-3 Concepcion 4030000 Chile
6 : Ifremer, Univ. Brest, CNRS, IRD, Laboratoire d'Oceanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS), IUEM; Brest France
Source Journal Of Geophysical Research-oceans (2169-9275) (American Geophysical Union (AGU)), 2019-03 , Vol. 124 , N. 3 , P. 2164-2178
DOI 10.1029/2018JC014628
WOS© Times Cited 25
Keyword(s) mesoscale-air-sea-interactions, current feedback, thermal feedback, scatterometters, coupling coefficients, coupled models

In the past decades, the use of scatterometer data allowed to demonstrate the global ubiquity of the Ocean Mesoscale Thermal FeedBack (TFB) and Current FeedBack (CFB) effects on surface winds and stress. Understanding these air‐sea interactions is of uttermost importance as the induced atmospheric anomalies partly control the ocean circulation, and, thus, can influence the Earth Climate. Whether the TFB and CFB effects can be disentangled, and whether satellite scatterometers can properly reveal them, remain rather unclear. Here, using satellite observations and ocean‐atmosphere coupled mesoscale simulations over 45° S‐45° N, we show that the CFB effect can be properly characterized and unraveled from that due to the TFB. We demonstrate that the TFB can be unambiguously characterized by its effect on the stress (and wind) divergence and magnitude. However, its effect on the wind and stress curl is contaminated by the CFB and, thus, can not be estimated from scatterometer data. Finally, because scatterometers provide equivalent neutral stability winds relative to the oceanic currents, they cannot characterize adequately the CFB wind response and overestimate the TFB wind response by ≈ 25%. Surface stress appears to be the more appropriate variable to consider from scatterometer data.

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