A clearer view of Southern Ocean air–sea interaction using surface heat flux asymmetry

TitleA clearer view of Southern Ocean air–sea interaction using surface heat flux asymmetry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsJosey, SA, Grist, JP, Mecking, JV, Moat, BI, Schulz, E
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Keywordsair–sea heat flux, Southern Ocean, wind stress

Progress in understanding Southern Ocean heat exchange and wind forcing is discussed and new results presented. These include a metric of the zonal asymmetry between surface ocean heat gain in the Atlantic/Indian sector and heat loss in the Pacific sector. The asymmetry arises from an intersector variation in the humidity gradient between the sea surface and near-surface atmosphere. This gradient increases by 60% in the Pacific sector enabling a 20 Wm−2 stronger latent heat loss compared with the Atlantic/Indian sector. The new metric is used for intercomparison of atmospheric reanalyses and CMIP6 climate simulations. CMIP6 has weaker Atlantic/Indian sector heat gain compared with the reanalyses primarily due to Indian Ocean sector differences. The potential for surface flux buoys to provide an observation-based counterpart to the asymmetry metric is explored. Over the past decade, flux buoys have been deployed at two sites (south of Tasmania and upstream of Drake Passage). The data record provided by these moorings is assessed and an argument developed for a third buoy to sample the Atlantic/Indian sector of the asymmetry metric. To close, we assess evidence that the main westerly wind belt has strengthened and moved southward in recent decades using the ERA5 reanalysis. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Heat and carbon uptake in the Southern Ocean: the state of the art and future priorities'.