A Subtropical North Atlantic Regional Atmospheric Moisture Budget

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Frederick Bingham, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, United States and Joseph Matthew D'Addezio, University of South Carolina Columbia, Columbia, SC, United States
The synergistic effects of evaporation (E), precipitation (P), and Ekman transport make the SPURS (Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study) region in the subtropical North Atlantic (15-30°N, 30-45°W) the ideal location for the world’s highest open ocean sea surface salinity. Using the MERRA and ERA-Interim atmospheric reanalyses, we reproduce the mean hydrologic state of the atmosphere over the SPURS region since 1979 and roughly deduce the change in salinity across the meridional domain due solely to interactions between E-P and Ekman transport. Our findings suggest a region that is highly evaporative at a mean rate of 4.87 mm/day with a standard deviation of 1.2 mm/day and little seasonality. Precipitation is much more variable with an annual fall maximum around 3 mm/day but only a mean rate of 1.37 mm/day with a standard deviation of 1.46 mm/day. The resulting E-P variable has a mean rate of 3.50 mm/day with a standard deviation of 1.92 mm/day and matches well with the moisture flux divergence term although the former is typically larger by a small margin. Strong prevailing easterly trade winds generate northward Ekman transports that advect water northward to the salinity maximum around 25°N. A short calculation shows that atmospheric moisture dynamics could potentially account for almost half of the change in salinity between 15°N and 25°N giving an estimate of the role that surface freshwater flux plays in the maintenance of the salinity maximum.