Effects of mesoscale sea-surface temperature fronts on the marine atmospheric boundary layer
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A numerical modelling study is presented focusing on the effects of mesoscale sea-surface temperature (SST) variability on surface fluxes and the marine atmospheric boundary-layer structure. A basic scenario is examined having two regions of SST anomaly with alternating warm/cold or cold/warm water regions. Conditions upstream from the anomaly region have SST values equal to the ambient atmosphere temperature, creating an upstream neutrally stratified boundary layer. Downstream from the anomaly region the SST is also set to the ambient atmosphere value. When the warm anomaly is upstream from the cold anomaly, the downstream boundary layer exhibits a more complex structure because of convective forcing and mixed layer deepening upstream from the cold anomaly. An internal boundary layer forms over the cold anomaly in this case, generating two distinct layers over the downstream region. When the cold anomaly is upstream from the warm anomaly, mixing over the warm anomaly quickly destroys the shallow cold layer, yielding a more uniform downstream boundary-layer vertical structure compared with the warm-to- cold case. Analysis of the momentum budget indicates that turbulent momentum flux divergence dominates the velocity field tendency, with pressure forcing accounting for only about 20% of the changes in momentum. Parameterization of surface fluxes and boundary-layer structure at these scales would be very difficult because of their dependence on subgrid-scale SST spatial order. Simulations of similar flow over smaller scale fronts (<5 km) suggest that small-scale SST variability might be parameterized in mesoscale models by relating the effective heat flux to the strength of the SST variance.
KeywordsInternal boundary layer Large-eddy simulation Marine boundary layer SST variability
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