Boundary layer convergence induced by strong winds across a midlatitude SST front

TitleBoundary layer convergence induced by strong winds across a midlatitude SST front
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKilpatrick T., Schneider N., Qiu B.
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2014/02
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000330816100020
Keywordsair-sea interaction; eastern equatorial pacific; Ekman pumping; gulf-stream; heat exchanges; Inertia-gravity waves; interaction; layer; low-frequency variability; low-level winds; Marine boundary; Mesoscale models; numerical-simulation; ocean-atmosphere; satellite-observations; sea-surface-temperature; tropical instability waves; wind stress

Recent studies indicate that the influence of midlatitude SST fronts extends through the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) into the free atmosphere, with implications for climate variability. To better understand the mechanisms of this ocean-to-atmosphere influence, SST-induced MABL convergence is explored here with the Weather Research and Forecasting mesoscale model in an idealized, dry, two-dimensional configuration, for winds crossing from cold to warm SST and from warm to cold SST. For strong cross-front winds, O(10 m s(-1)), changes in the turbulent mixing and MABL depth across the SST front lead to MABL depth-integrated convergence in the cold-to-warm case and depth-integrated divergence in the warm-to-cold case. The turbulent stress divergence term changes over a shorter length scale than the pressure gradient and Coriolis terms, such that the MABL response directly above the SST front is governed by nonrotating, internal boundary layer-like physics, which are consistent with the vertical mixing mechanism. An important consequence is that the increment in the cross-front surface stress diagnoses the vertical motion at the top of the MABL. These physics are at variance with some previously proposed SST frontal MABL models in which pressure adjustments determine the MABL convergence. The SST-induced MABL convergence results in vertical motion that excites a stationary internal gravity wave in the free atmosphere, analogous to a mountain wave. For a 15 m s(-1) cross-front wind, the gravity wave forced by an SST increase of 3 degrees C over 200 km is comparable to that forced by an 80-m change in topography.

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