Structure of the marine atmospheric boundary layer over an oceanic thermal front: SEMAPHORE experiment


  • B. H. Kwon,

  • B. Bénech,

  • D. Lambert,

  • P. Durand,

  • A. Druilhet,

  • H. Giordani,

  • S. Planton


The Structure des Echanges Mer-Atmosphere, Proprietes des Heterogeneites Oceaniques: Recherche Experimentale (SEMAPHORE) experiment, the third phase of which took place between October 4 and November 17, 1993, was conducted over the oceanic Azores Current located in the Azores basin and mainly marked at the surface by a thermal front due to the gradient of the sea surface temperature (SST) of about 1° to 2°C per 100 km. The evolution of the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) over the SST front was studied with two aircraft and a ship in different meteorological conditions. For each case, the influence of the incoming air direction with respect to the orientation of the oceanic front was taken into account. During the campaign, advanced very high resolution radiometer pictures did not show any relation between the SST field and the cloud cover. The MABL was systematically thicker on the warm side than on the cold side. The mean MABL structure described from aircraft data collected in a vertical plane crossing the oceanic front was characterized by (1) an atmospheric horizontal gradient of 1° to 2°C per 100 km in the whole depth of the mixed layer and (2) an increase of the wind intensity from the cold to the warm side when the synoptic wind blew from the cold side. The surface sensible heat (latent heat) flux always increased from the cold to the warm sector owing to the increase of the wind and of the temperature (specific humidity) difference between the surface and the air. Turbulence increased from the cold to the warm side in conjunction with the MABL thickening, but the normalized profiles presented the same structure, regardless of the position over the SST front. In agreement with the Action de Recherche Programme te Petite Echelle and Grande Echelle model, the mean temperature and momentum budgets were highly influenced by the horizontal temperature gradient. In particular, the strong ageostrophic influence in the MABL above the SST front seems linked with the secondary circulation due to the SST front.