Seasonal variability of the temperature and heat fluxes in the Gulf of Mexico

J. ZAVALA HIDALGO, ALEJANDRO PARES SIERRA, J. OCHOA

Abstract

Heat fluxes between the atmosphere and the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico are computed using the GOADS climatology, bulk formulae, radiation estimations from satellite, and a numerical model. 9 W m-2 is the estimated mean surface heat flux into the ocean, this is higher than previous studies due to different bulk formulae and data sources. The annual cycle has an amplitude of 168 W m-2. The contribution of each term in the heat equation is computed, analyzed and compared to previous studies. A numerical model with thermodynamics is used to study the relative importance of heat advection and entrainment on the sea surface temperature. The results indicate that the entrainment is important in the winter cooling of surface waters. When entrainment, which depends on the buoyancy loss and the wind induced turbulent kinetic energy, is not included, temperatures in winter stay higher than observations, with a root mean square (RMS) difference from observations of l.5ºC. Including entrainment and detrainment the RMS decreases to 1.0 ºC.

Keywords

Gulf of México; heat fluxes; numerical model; sea surface temperature; seasonal variability

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