Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Atmospheric boundary layer response to sea surface temperatures during the SEMAPHORE experiment


  • Hervé Giordani,

  • Serge Planton,

  • Bruno Benech,

  • Byung-Hyuk Kwon


The sensitivity of the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) subjected to sea surface temperatures (SST) during the Structure des Echanges Mer-Atmosphere, Proprietes des Heterogeneites Oceaniques: Recherche Experimentale (SEMAPHORE) experiment in 1993 has been studied. Atmospheric analyses produced by the Action de Recherche, Petite Echelle, Grande Echelle (ARPEGE) operational model at the French meteorological weather service assimilated data sets collected between October 7 and November 17, 1993, merged with the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) data. Analyses were validated against independent data from aircraft instruments collected along a section crossing the Azores oceanic front, not assimilated into the model. The responses of the mean MABL in the aircraft cross section to changes in SST gradients of about 1°C/100 km were the presence of an atmospheric front with horizontal gradients of 1°C/100 km and an increase of the wind intensity from the cold to the warm side during an anticyclonic synoptic situation. The study of the spatiotemporal characteristics of the MABL shows that during 3 days of an anticyclonic synoptic situation the SST is remarkably stationary because it is principally controlled by the Azores ocean current, which has a timescale of about 10 days. However, the temperature and the wind in the MABL are influenced by the prevailing atmospheric conditions. The ocean does not appear to react to the surface atmospheric forcing on the timescale of 3 days, whereas the atmospheric structures are modified by local and synoptic-scale advection. The MABL response appears to be much quicker than that of the SSTs. The correlation between the wind and the thermal structure in the MABL is dominated by the ageostrophic and not by the geostrophic component. In particular, the enhancement of the wind on either side of the SST front is mainly due to the ageostrophic component. Although the surface heat fluxes are not the only cause of ageostrophy, the surface buoyancy flux Qb appears to be an important local source.