National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2013

Air-sea and oceanic heat flux contributions to the heat budget of the northern Gulf of Alaska shelf

Janout, M.A., T.J. Weingartner, and P.J. Stabeno

J. Geophys. Res., 118(4), 1807–1820, doi: 10.1002/jgrc.20095 (2013)

We constructed annual cycles of National Centers for Environmental Prediction air-sea fluxes and temporal oceanic heat content change from Seward Line hydrographic surveys to quantify the different contributions to the oceanic heat budget within the Alaska Coastal Current (ACC) on the northern Gulf of Alaska shelf. The deficit between air-sea fluxes and the temporal change in oceanic heat content throughout the cooling season (October–April) varies from ~40 to 110 W m−2 and is balanced by ocean heat flux convergence. Cross-shelf heat flux convergence is insignificant on annual average, and the nearshore heat budget is likely entirely balanced by the ACC, which resupplies ~15%–50% of the heat removed by air-sea fluxes during the cooling season. Furthermore, we estimated spatial heat flux gradients and conclude that air-sea fluxes increase from east to west and from offshore to onshore. The cross-shore gradients are governed by wind speed gradients, likely due to ageostrophic nearshore wind events during the cooling season, while the along-shelf heat flux gradients are governed by the occurrence of low-pressure systems in the northern GOA that result in cold northerly winds over the northwestern GOA. These results underline the ACC's role as the dominant oceanic heat source to the northern GOA shelf and further imply an increased cooling rate of the ACC west of the Seward Line. Furthermore, our analysis showed that nearshore regions, particularly waters in the ACC, are subjected to stronger winter cooling than the middle and outer shelves.

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