On air-sea interaction at the mouth of the Gulf of California

Paquita Zuidema, Chris Fairall, Leslie M. Hartten, Jeffrey E. Hare, Daniel Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Surface flux, wind profiler, oceanic temperature and salinity, and atmospheric moisture, cloud, and wind observations gathered from the R/V Altair during the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) are presented. The vessel was positioned at the mouth of the Gulf of California halfway between La Paz and Mazatlan (∼23.5° N, 108°W), from 7 July to 11 August 2004, with a break from 22 to 27 July. Experimentmean findings include a net heat input from the atmosphere into the ocean of 70 W m-2. The dominant cooling was an experiment-mean latent heat flux of 108 W m-2, equivalent to an evaporation rate of 0.16 mm h-1. Total accumulated rainfall amounted to 42 mm. The oceanic mixed layer had a depth of approximately 20 m and both warmed and freshened during the experiment, despite a dominance of evaporation over local precipitation. The mean atmospheric boundary layer depth was approximately 410 m, deepening with time from an initial value of 350 m. The mean near-surface relative humidity was 66%, increasing to 73% at the top of the boundary layer. The rawinsondes documented an additional moist layer between 2 and 3-km altitude associated with a land-sea breeze, and a broad moist layer at 5-6 km associated with land-based convective outflow. The observational period included a strong gulf surge around 13 July associated with the onset of the summer monsoon in southern Arizona. During this surge, mean 1000-700-hPa winds reached 12 m s-1, net surface fluxes approached zero, and the atmosphere moistened significantly but little rainfall occurred. The experiment-mean wind diurnal cycle was dominated by mainland Mexico and consisted of a near-surface westerly sea breeze along with two easterly return flows, one at 2-3 km and another at 5-6 km. Each of these altitudes experienced nighttime cloudiness. The corresponding modulation of the radiative cloud forcing diurnal cycle provided a slight positive feedback upon the sea surface temperature. Two findings were notable. One was an advective warming of over 1°C in the oceanic mixed layer temperature associated with the 13 July surge. The second was the high nighttime cloud cover fraction at 5-6 km, dissipating during the day. These clouds appeared to be thin, stratiform, slightly supercooled liquid-phase clouds. The preference for the liquid phase increases the likelihood that the clouds can be advected farther from their source and thereby contribute to a higher-altitude horizontal moisture flux into the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1649-1661
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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