Atmospheric response to the Gulf Stream: Seasonal variations

Shoshiro Minobe, Masato Miyashita, Akira Kuwano-Yoshida, Hiroki Tokinaga, Shang Ping Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


The atmospheric response to the Gulf Stream front in sea surface temperature is investigated using high-resolution data from satellite observations and operational analysis and forecast. Two types of atmospheric response are observed with different seasonality and spatial distribution. In winter, surface wind convergence is strong over the Gulf Stream proper between Cape Hatteras and the Great Banks, consistent with atmospheric pressure adjustments to sea surface temperature gradients. The surface convergence is accompanied by enhanced precipitation and the frequent occurrence of midlevel clouds. Local evaporation and precipitation are roughly in balance over the Florida Current and the western Gulf Stream proper. In summer, strong precipitation, enhanced high clouds, and increased lightning flash rate are observed over the Florida Current and the western Gulf Stream proper, without seasonal surface convergence enhancement. For the precipitation maximum over the Florida Current, local evaporation supplies about half of the water vapor, and additional moisture is transported from the south on the west flank of the North Atlantic subtropical high. Atmospheric heating estimated by a Japanese reanalysis reveals distinct seasonal variations. In winter, a shallow-heating mode dominates the Gulf Stream proper, with strong sensible heating in the marine atmospheric boundary layer and latent heating in the lower troposphere. In summer, a deep-heating mode is pronounced over the Florida Current and the western Gulf Stream proper, characterized by latent heating in the middle and upper troposphere due to deep convection. Possible occurrences of these heating modes in other regions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3699-3719
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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