Southern Ocean air-sea heat flux, SST spatial anomalies, and implications for multi-decadal upper ocean heat content trends.

Monday, 15 December 2014
Veronica Margaret Tamsitt, Lynne D Talley and Matthew R Mazloff, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
The Southern Ocean displays a zonal dipole (wavenumber one) pattern in sea surface temperature (SST), with a cool zonal anomaly in the Atlantic and Indian sectors and a warm zonal anomaly in the Pacific sector, associated with the large northward excursion of the Malvinas and southeastward flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). To the north of the cool Indian sector is the warm, narrow Agulhas Return Current (ARC). Air-sea heat flux is largely the inverse of this SST pattern, with ocean heat gain in the Atlantic/Indian, cooling in the southeastward-flowing ARC, and cooling in the Pacific, based on adjusted fluxes from the Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE), a ⅙° eddy permitting model constrained to all available in situ data. This heat flux pattern is dominated by turbulent heat loss from the ocean (latent and sensible), proportional to perturbations in the difference between SST and surface air temperature, which are maintained by ocean advection. Locally in the Indian sector, intense heat loss along the ARC is contrasted by ocean heat gain of 0.11 PW south of the ARC. The IPCC AR5 50 year depth-averaged 0-700 m temperature trend shows surprising similarities in its spatial pattern, with upper ocean warming in the ARC contrasted by cooling to the south. Using diagnosed heat budget terms from the most recent (June 2014) 6-year run of the SOSE we find that surface cooling in the ARC is balanced by heating from south-eastward advection by the current whereas heat gain in the ACC is balanced by cooling due to northward Ekman transport driven by strong westerly winds. These results suggest that spatial patterns in multi-decadal upper ocean temperature trends depend on regional variations in upper ocean dynamics.