50 Year Global Ocean Surface Heat Flux Analysis

Lisan Yu - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


The Objectively Analyzed air-sea Fluxes (OAFlux) is a research and data development project focusing on global air-sea heat, moisture, and momentum fluxes. The project is committed to produce high-quality, long-term, global ocean surface forcing datasets from the late 1950s to the present to serve the needs of the ocean and climate communities on the characterization, attribution, modeling, and understanding of variability and long-term change in the atmosphere and the oceans.
The OAFlux project was established on the basis that quality global flux fields can be obtained only when data errors are properly treated. This is due to the fact that global air-sea flux fields are commonly constructed from flux bulk parameterizations that require surface meteorological observables (e.g., wind speed, temperature, humidity, cloud cover, etc.) as inputs. However, no surface meteorological observables are free from errors/biases regardless of whether they are ship-based measurements or space-born satellite retrievals. To take into account data errors, the OAFlux project developed an objective synthesis to include error information in the formulation and to improve the flux estimates through synthesizing measurements/estimates from various sources. The error information of input data is determined from air-sea measurements from surface moorings. The OAFlux established a validation database consisting of more than 130 flux buoys from the ocean climate observing system, including the tropical moored array network in all three tropical oceans, and the OceanSITES Ocean Reference Stations.
The OAFlux project has produced the global 1° resolution, daily/monthly analysis (1958-to the present) of ocean evaporation, air-sea latent and sensible heat fluxes, and related surface meteorological variables. The products are distributed online through the project website at http://oaflux.whoi.edu/data.html and updated twice per year. The project continues in efforts to develop a high-resolution (0.25°) global analysis of surface heat fluxes to improve the representation of the coupling between the atmosphere and ocean fronts/eddies, to develop surface radiative fluxes with improved accuracy, and to progress toward a net heat flux dataset.
The OAFlux project demonstrates the important role of integrating air-sea measurements from the global ocean climate observing system in constraining the global flux products. At the same time, the OAFlux global products broaden, strengthen, and enrich the use of in situ flux measurements. The buoy-validated, completely global, gridded, and temporally homogeneous products of several-decades long can help the ocean and climate diagnostic and modeling studies in many ways that the irregularly spaced and sparse buoy time series cannot do. The OAFlux user base has been growing rapidly. Since the access counter was installed on 01 May 2013, the project home page has been accessed 5,516 times and the data download page 5,269 times. The products were a base dataset in 153 referred publications in FY2013 alone, compared to 149 in FY2012. A new recent trend shows that OAFlux has emerged as a leading source of verification and validation for climate models and data assimilation models.