Friehe, C. A., W. J. Shaw, D. P. Rogers, K. L. Davidson, W. G. Large, S. A. Stage, G. H. Crescenti, S. J. S. Khalsa, G. K. Greenhut, and F. Li, 1991: Air-sea fluxes and surface layer turbulence around a sea surface temperature front. J. Geophys. Res., 96, 8593-8609.


The response of the lower marine atmospheric boundary layer to sharp changes in sea surface temperature was studied in the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment (FASINEX) with aircraft and ships measuring mean and turbulence quantities, sea surface temperature, and wave state. Changing synoptic weather on 3 successive days provided cases of wind direction both approximately parallel and perpendicular to a surface temperature front. For the wind perpendicular to the front, both wind over cold-to-warm and warm-to-cold surface temperatures occurred. For the cold-to-warm case, the unstable boundary layer was observed to thicken, with increased convective activity on the warm side. For the warm-to-cold case, the surface layer buoyant stability changed from unstable to neutral or slightly stable, and the sea state and turbulence structure in the lower 100 m were immediately altered, with a large decrease in stress and slowing of the wind. Measurements for this case with two aircraft in formation at 30 and 100 m show a slightly increased stress divergence on the cold side. The turbulent velocity variances changed anisotropically across the front: the streamwise variance was practically unchanged, whereas the vertical and cross-stream variances decreased. Model results, consistent with the observations, suggest that an internal boundary layer forms at the sea surface temperature front. The ocean wave, swell, and microwave radar backscatter fields were measured from several aircraft which flew simultaneously with the low-level turbulence aircraft. Significant reductions in backscatter and wave height were observed on the cold side of the front.