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Latent Heat Flux Sensitivity to Sea Surface Temperature: Regional Perspectives
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    Journal of Climate, 30(1), 129-143.
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Latent Heat Flux Sensitivity to Sea Surface Temperature: Regional Perspectives
  • Description:
    A global analysis of latent heat flux (LHF) sensitivity to sea surface temperature (SST) is performed, with focus on the tropics and the north Indian Ocean (NIO). Sensitivity of LHF state variables (surface wind speed W-s and vertical humidity gradients Delta q) to SST give rise to mutually interacting dynamical (W-s driven) and thermodynamical (Delta q driven) coupled feedbacks. Generally, LHF sensitivity to SST is pronounced over tropics where SST increase causes W-s (Delta q) changes, resulting in a maximum decrease (increase) of LHF by similar to 15 W m(-2) (degrees C)(-1). But the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and north Arabian Sea (NAS) remain an exception that is opposite to the global feedback relationship. This uniqueness is attributed to strong seasonality in monsoon W-s and Delta q variations, which brings in warm (cold) continental air mass into the BoB and NAS during summer (winter), producing a large seasonal cycle in air-sea temperature difference Delta T (and hence in Delta q). In other tropical oceans, surface air is mostly of marine origin and blo W-s from colder to warmer waters, resulting in a constant Delta T similar to 1 degrees C throughout the year, and hence a constant Delta q. Thus, unlike other basins, when the BoB and NAS are warming, air temperature warms faster than SST. The resultant decrease in Delta T and Delta q contributes to decrease the LHF with increased SST, contrary to other basins. This analysis suggests that, in the NIO, LHF variability is largely controlled by thermodynamic processes, which peak during the monsoon period. These observed LHF sensitivities are then used to speculate how the surface energetics and coupled feedbacks may change in a warmer world.
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