Spatio-temporal methods for estimating subsurface ocean thermal response to tropical cyclones

Abstract

Prevailing theory contends that tropical cyclones (TCs) are primarily driven by wind-induced heat exchange between the air and sea. Accurate characterization of the subsurface ocean thermal response to TC passage is crucial for accurate TC intensity forecasts and climatological modeling, yet that characterization is complicated by the high-noise ocean environment, correlations inherent in spatio-temporal data, relative scarcity of in situ observations, and entanglement of the TC-induced signal with seasonal signals. We present a general methodological framework that addresses these difficulties, integrating existing techniques in seasonal mean field estimation, Gaussian process modeling, and nonparametric regression into a functional ANOVA model. Importantly, we improve upon past work by properly handling seasonality, providing rigorous uncertainty quantification, and treating time as a continuous variable, rather than producing estimates that are binned in time. This functional ANOVA model is estimated using in situ subsurface temperature profiles from the Argo fleet of autonomous floats through a multi-step procedure, which (1) characterizes the upper ocean seasonal shift during the TC season; (2) models the variability in the temperature observations; (3) fits a thin plate spline using the variability estimates to account for heteroskedasticity and correlation between the observations. This spline fit reveals the ocean thermal response to TC passage. Through this framework, we obtain new scientific insights into the interaction between TCs and the ocean on a global scale, including a three-dimensional characterization of the near-surface and subsurface cooling along the TC storm track and the mixing-induced subsurface warming on the track’s right side.

Publication
Submitted