Surface heat fluxes and marine boundary layer modification in the Agulhas Retroflection region


  • Rosemary D. Mey,

  • Nan D. Walker,

  • Mark R. Jury


The Subtropical Convergence Agulhas Retroflection Cruise, from February 12 to March 4, 1987, provided an opportunity for studying variability of surface heat fluxes and marine boundary layer modification within an ocean area where few atmospheric measurements have been made. From 3-hourly surface observations it has been ascertained that surface heat flux processes are enhanced under cold air outbreak, postfrontal synoptic conditions and over warmer ocean areas. A maximum turbulent heat loss of 828 W/m2, 4 times the climatological value, was found. Over the cooler Subtropical Convergence waters and over the Agulhas Bank, heat fluxes were comparatively low. Two transect lines were performed across the Subtropical Convergence-Agulhas SST front. In both cases, air temperatures, dew point temperatures, and particularly wind speeds increased over the warmer water owing to enhanced vertical mixing resulting from oceanic heat losses. The second transect revealed marked vertical shear of the zonal wind. The essential elements for cyclogenesis, namely, low static stability and strong low level baroclinicity, were found to be characteristic of the region.