Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 64, Issue 9, pp 1233–1246 | Cite as

Air–sea interactions during strong winter extratropical storms

  • Jill Nelson
  • Ruoying He
  • John C. Warner
  • John Bane


A high-resolution, regional coupled atmosphere–ocean model is used to investigate strong air–sea interactions during a rapidly developing extratropical cyclone (ETC) off the east coast of the USA. In this two-way coupled system, surface momentum and heat fluxes derived from the Weather Research and Forecasting model and sea surface temperature (SST) from the Regional Ocean Modeling System are exchanged via the Model Coupling Toolkit. Comparisons are made between the modeled and observed wind velocity, sea level pressure, 10 m air temperature, and sea surface temperature time series, as well as a comparison between the model and one glider transect. Vertical profiles of modeled air temperature and winds in the marine atmospheric boundary layer and temperature variations in the upper ocean during a 3-day storm period are examined at various cross-shelf transects along the eastern seaboard. It is found that the air–sea interactions near the Gulf Stream are important for generating and sustaining the ETC. In particular, locally enhanced winds over a warm sea (relative to the land temperature) induce large surface heat fluxes which cool the upper ocean by up to 2 °C, mainly during the cold air outbreak period after the storm passage. Detailed heat budget analyses show the ocean-to-atmosphere heat flux dominates the upper ocean heat content variations. Results clearly show that dynamic air–sea interactions affecting momentum and buoyancy flux exchanges in ETCs need to be resolved accurately in a coupled atmosphere–ocean modeling framework.


Coupled modeling Winter extratropical cyclones East coast winter storms Air/sea interaction Gulf Stream USA/east coast 



We are grateful to the funding support provided by USGS Coastal Process project, NSF grant OCE-0927470, and ONR grant N00014-06-1-0739, and NASA grants NNX10AU06G, NNX12AP84G, and NNX13AD80G. Dr. Z. Yao’s help in setting up the ocean model and J. Warrilow’s editorial assistance are appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Nelson
    • 1
  • Ruoying He
    • 1
  • John C. Warner
    • 2
  • John Bane
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyCoastal and Marine Geology ProgramWoods HoleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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