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Atmosphere-Ocean Interaction$
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Eric B. Kraus and Joost A. Businger

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780195066180

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195066180.001.0001

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Large-Scale Forcing by Sea Surface Buoyancy Fluxes

Large-Scale Forcing by Sea Surface Buoyancy Fluxes

(p.292) 8 Large-Scale Forcing by Sea Surface Buoyancy Fluxes
Atmosphere-Ocean Interaction

Eric B. Kraus

Joost A. Businger

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with convective fluxes of sensible heat, moisture, and salinity that originate at the sea surface. In Section 8.1 we consider the relative influence of oceanic and atmospheric variability upon these fluxes. The general character of deep convection and its occurrence in the polar oceans is discussed in Section 8.2. The case of deep convection over the ocean in the tropical atmosphere, which is somewhat more complicated because of compressibility and cloud formation, is discussed in Section 8.3. Finally, in Section 8.4, we consider some of the long-term ocean-atmosphere feedback processes. Kinetic energy in the atmosphere-ocean system is derived mainly from an upward flux of buoyancy. The resulting redistribution of mass reduces available potential energy APE and lowers the centre of gravity. In turn, APE is generated, primarily by non-adiabatic processes: unequal absorption and emission of radiation; local release of latent heat in the atmosphere; local salinity changes in the ocean; and unequal heat conduction from the boundaries. The total mass of the oceans is about 280 times that of the atmosphere; their heat capacity is nearly 1200 times larger. Oceanic response times to external forcing are correspondingly slower. Although the annual irradiation cycle affects only a small part of the water mass, the thermal inertia is strong enough to prevent large or fast temperature variations. It is well known that this has a dominant influence on the whole terrestrial climate. This influence is particularly strong in the marine temperate regions. Figure 5.10 showed that even the daily temperature changes of the surface waters are smaller than those in the air. By virtue of their mechanical and thermal inertia, the oceans tend to play the role of a flywheel in the air-sea system. The atmosphere is the more volatile and more variable partner. It supplies mechanical energy to the oceans at a rate that has a very skewed distribution in space and time because the work of the wind stress is proportional to the third power of the windspeed. This creates a strong bias in favour of restricted stormy areas.

Keywords:   Bottom water formation, Carnot cycle, Deep convection, Ekman layer, Finlater jet, Gradient wind, Hadley circulation, Indian monsoon

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