Regional variations in the ocean response to tropical cyclones: Ocean mixing versus low cloud suppression

Andrew Huang, Hui Li, Ryan L. Sriver, Alexey V. Fedorov, Chris M. Brierley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tropical cyclones (TCs) tend to cool sea surface temperature (SST) via enhanced vertical mixing and evaporative fluxes. This cooling is substantially reduced in the subtropics, especially in the northeastern Pacific where the occurrence of TCs can warm the ocean surface. Here we investigate the cause of this anomalous warming by analyzing the local oceanic features and TC-induced anomalies of SST, surface fluxes, and cloud fraction using satellite and in situ data. We find that TCs tend to suppress low clouds at the margins of the tropical ocean warm pool, enhancing shortwave radiative surface fluxes within the first week following storm passage, which, combined with spatial variations in ocean thermal structure, can produce a ~1°C near-surface warming in the northeastern Pacific. These findings, supported by high-resolution Earth system model simulations, point to potential connections between TCs, ocean temperature, and low cloud distributions that can influence tropical surface heat budgets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1947-1955
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017


  • Earth system model
  • Ocean-atmosphere interactions
  • tropical climate
  • tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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