The CPO Climate Variability & Predictability (CVP) program funded researchers in 2019 to study the interaction of the lower atmosphere and upper ocean. As part of that project, researchers have recently published a study in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. This study investigates the behavior of upper ocean marine boundary layers given the presence of a heterogeneous sea surface temperature, aka warm or cold fronts. Over broad distances, the ocean’s surface appears extremely uniform in both sea surface temperature and currents. However, this study shows that within the boundary layers, small-scale sea surface temperature variations alter the boundary layer stability and the boundary-layer response varies considerably in downstream (across the ocean) and vertical directions (into the atmosphere). These findings have implications for how atmospheric and climate models represent atmospheric stability (i.e. whether air rises, sink, or remains stable).
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