The impact of the Amazon-Orinoco River plume on enthalpy flux and air-sea interaction within caribbean sea tropical cyclones

Johna E. Rudzin, Lynn K. Shay, Benjamin Jaimes De La Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The influence of the Amazon-Orinoco River plume in the Caribbean Sea on latent and sensible heat flux (enthalpy flux) and tropical cyclone (TC) intensity is investigated for Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Emily (2005), Dean (2007), and Felix (2007) using dropwindsonde data, satellite sea surface temperature (SST), and the SMARTSclimatology. Relationships among enthalpy fluxes, ocean heat content relative to the 26°C isotherm depth (OHC), and SST during storm passage are diagnosed. Results indicate that sea surface cooling in the river plume, a low-OHC region, is comparable to that in the warm eddy region, which has high OHC. An isothermal layer heat budget shows that upper-ocean cooling in the river plume can be explained predominantly by sea-to-air heat flux, rather than by entrainment flux from the thermocline. The latter two findings suggest that relatively large upper-ocean stratification in the plume regime limited entrainment cooling, sustaining SST and enthalpy flux. Inspection of atmospheric variables indicates that deep moderate wind shear is prevalent, and equivalent potential temperature is enhanced over the river plume region for most of these storms. Thus, sustained surface fluxes in this region may have provided warm, moist boundary layer conditions, which may have helped these storms to rapidly intensify even over relatively low-OHC waters and moderate shear. These findings are important because several Caribbean Sea TCs, including these cases, have been underforecast with respect to intensity and/or rapid intensifications, yet minimal upperocean observations exist to understand air-sea interaction during TCs in the salinity-stratified Amazon- Orinoco plume regime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-950
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Air-sea interaction
  • Rivers
  • Salinity
  • Sea surface temperature
  • Surface fluxes
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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