Lagrangian sources of frontogenesis in the equatorial Atlantic front
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Estimating the processes that control the north equatorial sea surface temperature (SST)-front on the northern edge of the cold tongue in the tropical Atlantic is a key issue for understanding the dynamics of the oceanic equatorial Atlantic and the West African Monsoon. Diagnosis of the frontogenetic forcings on a realistic high-resolution simulation was used to identify the processes involved in the formation and evolution of the equatorial SST-front. The turbulent forcing associated with the mixed-layer turbulent heat flux was found to be systematically frontolytic while the dynamic forcing associated with currents was found to be frontogenetic for the equatorial SST-front. Nevertheless, the low-frequency component of the turbulent forcing was frontogenetic and initiated the SST-front which was then amplified and maintained by the leading dynamic forcing. This forcing was mainly driven by the meridional convergence of the northern South Equatorial Current (nSEC) and the Guinea Current, which points out the essential role played by the circulation in the equatorial SST-front evolution. The quasi-biweekly variability of the equatorial SST-front and its forcings were found to be more strongly coupled to the wind energy flux (WEF) than to the surface wind stress. In fact the WEF controlled the convergence/divergence of the nSEC and Guinea Current and thus the meridional component of the leading dynamic forcing. The WEF explains the equatorial SST-front development better than the wind does because it is a coupled ocean-atmosphere process.
KeywordsFrontogenesis SST-front Mixed-layer processes
This work was supported by the French programmes AMMA-EGEE (GAME/INSU). This study was supported by the AMMA project. Based on a French initiative, AMMA was built by an international scientific group and is currently funded by a large number of agencies, in France, the UK, the US and Africa. It has been the beneficiary of a major financial contribution from the European Community’s Sixth Framework Research Programme. Detailed information on scientific coordination and funding is available on the AMMA International website http://www.amma-international.org.
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