National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

Tropical Pacific surface wind energy spectra and coherence: Basin-wide observations and their observing system implications

Chiodi, A.M., and D.E. Harrison

J. Climate, 33(16), 7141–7154, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0836.1, View online (2020)

The tropical Pacific moored-buoy array spacing was based on wind coherence scales observed from low-lying islands in the western-central tropical Pacific. Since the array was deployed across the full basin in the mid-1990s, winds from the array have proven critical to accurately monitoring for decadal-scale changes in tropical Pacific winds and identifying spurious trends in wind analysis products used to monitor for long-term change. The array observations have also greatly advanced our ability to diagnostically model (hindcast) and thereby better understand the observed development of central Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly development associated with El Niño and La Niña events, although the eastern equatorial Pacific is not yet accurately hindcast. The original array-design assumptions that the statistics calculated from the western-central Pacific island records are representative of open-ocean conditions and other regions of the tropical Pacific have not been thoroughly reexamined. We revisit these assumptions using the basinwide wind observations provided by the array and find that key wind statistics change across the tropical Pacific basin in ways that could not be determined from the original island wind study. The island results provided a best-case answer for mooring zonal spacing with minimally redundant coherence between adjacent buoys. Buoy-observed meridional coherence scales are longer than determined from the islands. Enhanced zonal sampling east of 140°W and west of 180° is needed to obtain minimal redundancy (optimal spacing). Reduced meridional sampling could still yield minimal redundancy for wind and wind stress fields over the ocean waveguide.

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