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Climate Variability & Change, Water & Energy Cycles

We propose a diagnostic study of physical oceanographic aspects of interannual and decadal variability of the tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures (TA SSTs), especially the possible role of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in the physics of the TA SST variability. The proposed research will be conducted via analyses of oceanographic data from the late 1980s-early 1990s to present, based on remote sensing by NASA satellites; and oceanographic data products from the Estimating the Circulation & Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) project. We will use TOPEX/POSEIDON sea-surface height, ERS and QuickSCAT surface wind stress, and a blended SST product using in situ SST measurements and SSTs derived from infrared radiance measurements by Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instruments on NOAA satellites; and temperatures, velocities, and heat budget estimates from a 15 years (1992-2006) ECCO-GODAE product and 51 years (1950-2000) GECCO product. There are several shortcomings of each of these data sets; however, these are the best, large-scale, high-resolution, known-quality, and at least a decade long oceanographic data sets currently available and they contain very useful information about the physics of the TA SST variability in spite of their known deficiencies. Previous research suggests that interactions among the cross-equatorial gradient of TA SSTs (TAG for brevity), and atmospheric circulation can provide a positive feedback to the TAG; and wind stress forcing on shallow tropical circulations (STCs) and associated ocean heat transports can provide a negative feedback to the TAG at decadal timescale. In the proposed project, we will test this hypothesis with remote sensing based and ECCO-assimilated ocean data; isolate dominant, empirical patterns of oceanic component of interannual and decadal TA SST variability; and carry out a detailed budget analysis of SST variability in the TA region, using the ECCO-assimilated ocean data products. We will also test a mechanism of AMOC influence on the STCs and the TAG, operating in global coupled model experiments, using the ECCO-assimilated ocean data products. The proposed research will be a unique and systematic study to quantify oceanic component of interannual and decadal variability of the TAG using remote sensing based and ECCO-assimilated ocean data, and is expected to identify important physical processes responsible for interannual and decadal variability of the TAG for subsequent intensive research. The proposed research will address NASA’s scientific discovery mission; and will also address a specific research objective (3A.5) to understand the role of oceans, atmosphere, and ice in the climate system and improve predictive capability for its future evolution, especially the role of the AMOC in the TAG variability. The proposed research is consistent with the NASA-Ocean Physics Program’s research themes of analysis and interpretation of the ocean circulation using satellite and in situ data, especially analysis of satellite altimetry, surface wind stress, and other relevant data in support of the U.S. CLIVAR Program; and understanding and estimation of SST and salinity.

Project PI: Vikram Mehta / Center for Research on the Changing Earth System (CRCES)

P. O. Box 346

Clarksville, Maryland 21029

Phone: 410-992-5944 Fax: 410-992-5944

Email: Vikram.Mehta@iccsir.org

http://www.crces.org/staff.php?id=1

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Started: Aug 10, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 02, 2010

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