On the heat budget of the Arabian Sea

Deanna Wilson-Diaz, Arthur J. Mariano, Robert H. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study analyzes the heat budget of the Arabian Sea using satellite-derived sea-surface temperature (SST) from 1985 to 1995 along with other data sets. For a better understanding of air-sea interaction, canonical average monthly fields representing the spatial and temporal structure of the various components of the heat balance of the Arabian Sea are constructed from up to 30 years of monthly atmospheric and oceanic data. The SST over the Arabian Sea is not uniform and continually evolves with time. Cooling occurs over most of the basin during November through January and May through July, with the greatest cooling in June and July. Warming occurs over most of the basin during the remainder of the year, with the greatest warming occurring in March and September. Results indicate that the sign of the net heat flux is strongly dependent on the location and month. The effects of net heat flux and penetrative solar radiation strongly influence the change in SST during February and are less important during August and September. Horizontal advection acts to cool the sea surface during the northeast monsoon months. During the southwest monsoon horizontal advection of surface waters warms the SST over approximately the southern half of the basin, while the advection of upwelled water from the Somalia and Oman coasts substantially cools the northern basin. The central Arabian Sea during the southwest monsoon is the only area where the change in SST is balanced by the entrainment and turbulent diffusion at the base of the mixed layer. Agreement between the temporal change in the satellite-derived SST and the change calculated from the conservation of heat equation is surprisingly good given the errors in the measured variables and the bulk formula parameters. Throughout the year, monthly results over half of the basin agree within 3°. Considering that the SST changes between 8° and 12° over the year, this means that our results explain from 62% to 75% of the change in SST over 56% of the Arabian Sea. Two major processes contribute to the discrepancy in the change in SST calculated according to the heat budget equation and the change in SST derived from satellite observations. The first is the effect of the horizontal advection term. The position of the major eddies and currents during the southwest monsoon greatly affects the change in SST due to the large gradient in temperature between the cold upwelled waters along the Somali coast to the warm waters in the interior of the basin. The second major process is the thermocline effect. In areas of shallow mixed-layer depth, high insolation and wind speeds of either less than 3 m/s or greater than 15 m/s, the bulk formulae parameterization of the surface heat fluxes is inappropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-165
Number of pages25
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Arabian Sea
  • Heat budget
  • Heat exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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