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On the Mechanisms Driving Latent Heat Flux Variations in the Northwest Tropical Atlantic
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  • Pablo Fernández,
  • Sabrina Speich,
  • Hugo Bellenger,
  • Diego Lange Vega,
  • Johannes Karstensen,
  • Dongxiao Zhang,
  • Cesar Barbedo Rocha
Pablo Fernández
École Normale Supérieure

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Sabrina Speich
Ecole Normale Supérieure
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Hugo Bellenger
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Diego Lange Vega
University of Hohenheim
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Johannes Karstensen
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
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Dongxiao Zhang
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Cesar Barbedo Rocha
University of São Paulo
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The Northwest Tropical Atlantic (NWTA) is a region with complex surface ocean circulation. The most prominent feature is the North Brazil Current (NBC) and its retroflection at 8ºN that leads to the formation of numerous mesoscale eddies known as NBC rings. The NWTA also receives the outflow of the Amazon River, generating freshwater plumes that can extend up to 100,000 km2. These two processes affect the spatial variability of the region’s surface latent heat flux (LHF). First, the presence of surface freshwater modifies the vertical stratification of the ocean limiting the amount of heat that can be released to the atmosphere. Second, they create a highly heterogeneous mesoscale sea-surface temperature (SST) field that directly influences near-surface atmospheric circulation. These effects are illustrated byd from the ElUcidating the RolE of Cloud-Circulation Coupling in ClimAte - Ocean Atmosphere (EUREC4A-OA) and Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC) experiments, satellite and reanalysis data. We decompose the LHF budget into several terms controlled by different atmospheric and oceanic processes to identify the mechanisms leading to LHF changes. We find LHF variations of up to 160 W m2, of which 100 W m2 are associated with wind speed changes and 40 W m2 with SST variations. Surface currents or stratification-change associated heat release remain as second-order contributions with LHF variations of less than 10 W m2 each. Although this study is limited by the paucity of collocated observations, it highlights the importance of considering these three components to properly characterize LHF variability at different spatial scales.
14 Nov 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
14 Nov 2023Published in ESS Open Archive