The Effects of SST-Induced Surface Wind Speed and Direction Gradients on Midlatitude Surface Vorticity and Divergence

Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF


Attribute NameValues
  • The effects of surface wind speed and direction gradients on midlatitude surface vorticity and divergence fields associated with mesoscale sea surface temperature (SST) variability having spatial scales of 100–1000 km are investigated using vector wind observations from the SeaWinds scatterometer on the Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) satellite and SST from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) Aqua satellite. The wind–SST coupling is analyzed over the period June 2002–August 2008, corresponding to the first 6+ years of the AMSR-E mission. Previous studies have shown that strong wind speed gradients develop in response to persistent mesoscale SST features associated with the Kuroshio Extension, Gulf Stream, South Atlantic, and Agulhas Return Current regions. Midlatitude SST fronts also significantly modify surface wind direction; the surface wind speed and direction responses to typical SST differences of about 2°–4°C are, on average, about 1–2 m s⁻¹ and 4°–8°, respectively, over all four regions. Wind speed perturbations are positively correlated and very nearly collocated spatially with the SST perturbations. Wind direction perturbations, however, are displaced meridionally from the SST perturbations, with cyclonic flow poleward of warm SST and anticyclonic flow poleward of cool SST. Previous observational analyses have shown that small-scale perturbations in the surface vorticity and divergence fields are related linearly to the crosswind and downwind components of the SST gradient, respectively. When the vorticity and divergence fields are analyzed in curvilinear natural coordinates, the wind speed contributions to the SST-induced vorticity and divergence depend equally on the crosswind and downwind SST gradients, respectively. SST-induced wind direction gradients also significantly modify the vorticity and divergence fields, weakening the vorticity response to crosswind SST gradients while enhancing the divergence response to downwind SST gradients.
  • Keywords: Convergence/divergence, Wind stress, Vorticity, Surface observations, Sea surface temperature
Resource Type
Date Available
Date Issued
  • O’Neill, Larry W., Dudley B. Chelton, Steven K. Esbensen, 2010: The Effects of SST-Induced Surface Wind Speed and Direction Gradients on Midlatitude Surface Vorticity and Divergence. Journal of Climate, 23, 255–281.
Journal Title
Journal Volume
  • 23
Journal Issue/Number
  • 2
Rights Statement
Funding Statement (additional comments about funding)
  • This research was supported by NASA GrantNAS5-32965 and Contract 1283973 from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for funding of Ocean Vector Winds Science Team activities.
Peer Reviewed



This work has no parents.