The Role of Clouds and Surface Heat Fluxes in the Maintenance of the 2013–2016 Northeast Pacific Marine Heatwave Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractStarting in late 2013, the Northeast (NE) Pacific Ocean experienced anomalously warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) that persisted for over 2 years. This marine heatwave, known as “the Blob,” produced many devastating ecological impacts with socioeconomic implications for coastal communities. The warm waters observed during the NE Pacific 2013/2016 marine heatwave altered the surface energy balance and disrupted ocean–atmosphere interactions in the region. In principle, ocean–atmosphere interactions following the formation of the marine heatwave could have perpetuated warm SSTs through a positive SST‐cloud feedback. The actual situation was more complicated. While reanalysis data show a decrease in boundary layer cloud fraction and an increase in downward shortwave radiative flux at the surface coincident with warm SSTs, this was accompanied by an increase in longwave radiative fluxes at the surface, as well as an increase in sensible and latent heat fluxes out of the ocean mixed layer. The result is a small negative net heat flux anomaly (compared to the anomalies of the individual terms contributing to the net heat flux). This provides new information about the midlatitude ocean–atmosphere system while it was in a perturbed state. More specifically, a mixed layer heat budget reveals that anomalies in both the atmospheric and oceanic processes offset each other such that the anomalously warm SSTs persisted for multiple years. The results show how the atmosphere–ocean system in the NE Pacific is able to maintain itself in an anomalous state for an extended period of time.

publication date

  • October 27, 2019

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • June 9, 2021 11:28 AM

Full Author List

  • Schmeisser L; Bond NA; Siedlecki SA; Ackerman TP

author count

  • 4

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2169-897X

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2169-8996

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 10772

end page

  • 10783


  • 124


  • 20