The interplay of ocean and atmosphere depends on time and space scales

SST Anomalies from NOAA Coral Reef Watch

Image Credit: Global SST anomalies from NOAA Coral Reef Watch

A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (co-authored by LuAnne Thompson) examines the spatial and temporal dependence of the exchange of heat between the ocean and atmosphere. The authors use satellite observations and the results of coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models at two different spatial resolutions, one which represents eddies in the ocean and one which does not. For spatial scales larger than 2,000 km, weather in the atmosphere drives air-sea exchange, However, analysis of the high-resolution model sea surface temperature and surface flux of heat show much larger variations than found in the low resolution model. These results are confirmed by satellite observations.  Ocean processes, termed ocean weather, drive SST and heat flux variability at these smaller scales for time scales of several months to several decades.