Synergy of In Situ and Satellite Ocean Observations in Determining Meridional Heat Transport in the Atlantic Ocean

Shenfu Dong, Gustavo Goni, Ricardo Domingues, Francis Bringas, Marlos Goes, Jonathan Christophersen, Molly Baringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is a major driver in global redistribution of heat, which modulates global climate and weather. Altimeter sea surface height measurements and in situ hydrographic data are combined in this work to derive monthly synthetic temperature and salinity (T/S) profiles along zonal transbasin sections in both the North (26.5°N) and South (20°S, 25°S, 30°S, and 35°S) Atlantic Ocean since 1993, which are then used to estimate the MOC and meridional heat transport (MHT). Consistent with previous studies, the results indicate that the MHT is highly correlated with the MOC at all five latitudes. At 26.5°N the mean MHT from synthetic profiles (1.09 ± 0.21 PW) is slightly lower than that from the RAPID-MOCHA-WBTS array (1.20 ± 0.28 PW), but their interannual variabilities show good agreements. Both the geostrophic and Ekman components contribute significantly to the MHT variability, with the geostrophic component dominating during 1993–2004 and the Ekman component dominating during 2005–2014. In the South Atlantic, the MHT seasonal cycle strengthens southward from 20°S to 34.5°S. On interannual time scale, the MHT at 20°S and 25°S experiences larger variations than that at 30°S and 34.5°S, in part due to the fact that the geostrophic and Ekman components work together to strengthen the MHT changes, while they tend to work against each other at 30°S and 34.5°S. Results shown here suggest that integrating data from different observing platforms provides better means to estimate the MOC and MHT in near real time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JC017073
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • in situ and satellite observations
  • meridional heat transport
  • meridional overturning circulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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