Ocean variability and air-sea fluxes produced by atmospheric rivers

Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 15;9(1):2152. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-38562-2.


Atmospheric rivers (ARs) cause heavy precipitation and flooding in the coastal areas of many mid-latitude continents, and thus the atmospheric processes associated with the AR have been intensively studied in recent years. However, AR-associated ocean variability and air-sea fluxes have received little attention because of the lack of high-resolution ocean data until recently. Here we demonstrate that typical ARs can generate strong upper ocean response and substantial air-sea fluxes using a high-resolution (1/12°) ocean reanalysis. AR events observed during the CalWater 2015 field campaign generate large-scale on-shore currents that hit the coast, generating strong narrow northward jets along the west coast of North America, in association with a substantial rise of sea level at the coast. In the open ocean, the AR generates prominent changes of mixed layer depth, especially south of 30°N due to the strong surface winds and air-sea heat fluxes. The prominent cooling of SST is observed only in the vicinity of AR upstream areas primarily due to the large latent heat flux. Using a long-term AR dataset, composite structure and variations of upper ocean and air-sea fluxes are presented, which are consistent with those found in the events during CalWater 2015.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.