A study of horizontal sea surface temperature variability
Butler, William Aubrey
Garwood, Roland W.
Thornton, Edward B.
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The horizontal variability of "patchiness" in sea surface temperature structure is examined on length scales between 0.6 and 76.8 kilometers. A primary purpose was to test the hypothesis that atmospheric forcing is a cause of horizontal temperature variance on these length scales. Using continuous sea surface temperatures acquired in the Central North Pacific Ocean, spectra were computed for temperature variance. The variability in these spectra on seasonal, synoptic, and diurnal periods was then examined and correlated with changes in atmospheric conditions. Important results found included a seasonal dependence for the patchiness structure, a negative correlation between surface temperature variance and wind speed on a synoptic time scale, and a diurnal variability in patchiness that may be explained by solar insolation and turbulent heat exchange with the atmosphere. In conclusion, a strong atmospherically controlled temporal variability in the small scale horizontal sea surface temperature variance is found and may explain inconsistencies in earlier observational and theoretical studies.
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