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The contrast between Atlantic and Pacific surface water fluxes

Craig, P. M., Ferreira, D. and Methven, J. (2017) The contrast between Atlantic and Pacific surface water fluxes. Tellus A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, 69 (1). 1330454. ISSN 0280-6495

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/16000870.2017.1330454


The Atlantic Ocean is known to have higher sea surface salinity than the Pacific Ocean at all latitudes. This is thought to be associated with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and deep water formation in the high latitude North Atlantic - a phenomenon not present anywhere in the Pacific. This asymmetry may be a result of salt transport in the ocean or an asymmetry in the surface water flux (evaporation minus precipitation; E − P ) with greater E − P over the Atlantic than the Pacific. In this paper we focus on the surface water flux. Seven estimates of the net freshwater flux (E − P − R including runoff, R), calculated with different methods and a range of data sources (atmospheric and oceanic reanalyses, surface flux datasets, hydrographic sections), are compared. It is shown that E − P − R over the Atlantic is consistently greater than E − P − R over the Pacific by about 0.4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). The Atlantic/Pacific E − P − R asymmetry is found at all latitudes between 30◦S and 60◦N. Further analysis with ERA-Interim combined with a runoff dataset demonstrates that the basin E − P − R asymmetry is dominated by an evaporation asymmetry in the northern high-latitudes, but by a precipitation asymmetry everywhere south of 30◦N. At the basin scale, the excess of precipitation over the Pacific compared to the Atlantic (∼ 30◦S - 60◦N) dominates the asymmetry. Also it is shown that the asymmetry is present throughout the year and quite steady from year to year. Investigation of the interannual variability and trends suggest that the precipitation trends are not robust between datasets and are indistinguishable from variability. However, a positive trend in evaporation (comparable to other published estimates) is seen in ERA-Interim, consistent with sea surface temperature increases.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:68486


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