AbstractTropical eastern Pacific sea surface temperature plays a pivotal role in mechanisms that determine global mean surface temperature variability. In this study, the surface flux contribution to recent cooling of the tropical eastern Pacific is investigated using data from three atmospheric reanalyses with full assimilation of observations, an observation-based net surface energy flux reconstruction, and 15 atmosphere-only climate model simulations. For ERA-Interim, 78% of the decrease in net surface flux (−0.65 W m−2 yr−1 over 1988–2008) is explained by the latent heat flux variability. Latent heat flux variability differs between datasets, and this is investigated using a bulk formula. It is found that discrepancies in wind speed change explain contrasting latent heat flux trends across datasets. The significant increase in wind speed of 0.26 m s−1 decade−1 over the tropical eastern Pacific in ERA-Interim is not reproduced by satellite or buoy observations or atmosphere-only climate model simulations, casting questions on the reliability of reanalysis-based surface fluxes over the tropical eastern Pacific.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 27, 2018
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