Shipboard radiosonde surveys were conducted during the 2003-04 winter east of Japan to study atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) structure over the Kuroshio Extension. ABL displayed large variations in vertical structure, most of which are attributable to changes in atmospheric surface stability. Where the surface atmosphere was unstable (neutral) as measured by the sea-air temperature difference, surface turbulent heat flux increased (decreased) and a mixed-layer developed (undeveloped) with weakened (intensified) vertical wind shear. A linear regression analysis indicates that ABL height tends to increase by 1km as the sea-air temperature difference increases by 7°C or surface turbulent heat flux by 500 Wm-2. While meridional thermal advection by weather disturbances seems to cause much of atmospheric stability variability during the 43-day surveys, the strong sensitivity of vertical mixing and wind shear to stability is consistent with the observed in-phase co-variability of SST and surface wind from satellite on monthly and longer timescales.
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