Chapter 5 - The Oceanic Heat Budget

Chapter 5 Contents

5.10 Important Concepts

  1. Sunlight is absorbed primarily in the tropical ocean. The amount of sun-light changes with season, latitude, time of day, and cloud cover.

  2. Most of the heat absorbed by the oceans in the tropics is released as water vapor which heats the atmosphere when water is condenses as rain. Most of the rain falls in the tropical convergence zones, lesser amounts fall in mid-latitudes near the polar front.

  3. Heat released by rain and absorbed infrared radiation from the ocean are the primary drivers for the atmospheric circulation.

  4. The net heat flux from the oceans is largest in mid-latitudes and offshore of Japan and New England.

  5. Heat fluxes can be measured directly using fast response instruments on low-flying aircraft, but this is not useful for measuring heat fluxes over oceanic areas.

  6. Heat fluxes through large regions of the sea surface can be calculated from bulk formula. Seasonal, regional, and global maps of fluxes are available based on ship and satellite observations.

  7. The most widely used data sets for studying heat fluxes are the Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set and the reanalysis of meteorological data by numerical weather prediction models.

  8. The oceans transport about one-half of the heat needed to warm higher latitudes, the atmosphere transports the other half.

  9. Solar output is not constant, and the observed small variations in output of heat and light from the sun seem to produce the changes in global temperature observed over the past 400 years.

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