Importance of ocean mesoscale variability for air-sea interactions in the Gulf of Mexico

D. A. Putrasahan, I. Kamenkovich, M. Le Hénaff, B. P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Mesoscale variability of currents in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) can affect oceanic heat advection and air-sea heat exchanges, which can influence climate extremes over North America. This study is aimed at understanding the influence of the oceanic mesoscale variability on the lower atmosphere and air-sea heat exchanges. The study contrasts global climate model (GCM) with 0.1° ocean resolution (high resolution; HR) with its low-resolution counterpart (1° ocean resolution with the same 0.5° atmosphere resolution; LR). The LR simulation is relevant to current generation of GCMs that are still unable to resolve the oceanic mesoscale. Similar to observations, HR exhibits positive correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and surface turbulent heat flux anomalies, while LR has negative correlation. For HR, we decompose lateral advective heat fluxes in the upper ocean into mean (slowly varying) and mesoscale-eddy (fast fluctuations) components. We find that the eddy flux divergence/convergence dominates the lateral advection and correlates well with the SST anomalies and air-sea latent heat exchanges. This result suggests that oceanic mesoscale advection supports warm SST anomalies that in turn feed surface heat flux. We identify anticyclonic warm-core circulation patterns (associated Loop Current and rings) which have an average diameter of ~350 km. These warm anomalies are sustained by eddy heat flux convergence at submonthly time scales and have an identifiable imprint on surface turbulent heat flux, atmospheric circulation, and convective precipitation in the northwest portion of an averaged anticyclone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6352-6362
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 28 2017


  • Gulf of Mexico
  • air-sea interactions
  • coupled climate model
  • eddy flux convergence
  • ocean mesoscale variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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