Improving Latent and Sensible Heat Flux Estimates for the Atlantic Ocean (1988–99) by a Synthesis Approach* Academic Article uri icon


  • A new daily latent and sensible flux product developed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with 1degreesx1degrees resolution for the Atlantic Ocean (65degreesS-65degreesN) for the period from 1988 to 1999 was presented. The flux product was developed by using a variational objective analysis approach to obtain best estimates of the flux-related basic surface meteorological variables (e.g., wind speed, air humidity, air temperature, and sea surface temperature) through synthesizing satellite data and outputs of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). The state-of-the-art bulk flux algorithm 2.6a, developed from the field experiments of the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE), was applied to compute the flux fields. The study focused on analyzing the mean field properties of the WHOI daily latent and sensible heat fluxes and their comparisons with the ship-based climatology from the Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) and NWP outputs. It is found that the WHOI yearly mean fluxes are consistent with the SOC climatology in both structure and amplitude, but the WHOI yearly mean basic variables are not always consistent with SOC; the better agreement in the fluxes is due to the effects of error compensation during variable combinations. Both ECMWF and NCEP-Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) Reanalysis-2 (NCEP2) model data have larger turbulent heat loss (similar to20 W m(-2)) than the WHOI product. Nevertheless, the WHOI fluxes agree well with the NCEP-2 Reanalysis fluxes in structure and the trend of year-to-year variations, but not with the ECMWF operational outputs; the latter have a few abrupt changes coinciding with the modifications in the model forecast-analysis system. The degree of impact of the model changes on the basic variables is not as dramatic, a factor that justifies the inclusion of the basic variables, not the fluxes, from the ECMWF operational model in the synthesis. The flux algorithms of the two NWP models give a larger latent and sensible heat loss. Recalculating the NWP fluxes using the COARE algorithm considerably reduces the strength but does not replicate the WHOI results. The present analysis could not quantify the degree of improvement in the mean aspect of the WHOI daily flux fields as accurate basinwide verification data are lacking. This study is the first to demonstrate that the synthesis approach is a useful tool for combining the NWP and satellite data sources and improving the mean representativeness of daily basic variable fields and, hence, the daily flux fields. It is anticipated that such an approach may become increasingly relied upon in the preparation of future high-quality flux products.

publication date

  • January 2004