Global Sea Surface Temperature

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Sea surface temperature (SST) is an important indicator for global climate. As the oceans continue to absorb more heat, SST and surface circulation patterns transporting warm and cold waters around the globe are changing. The SST data presented in this video shows many interesting features of the ocean circulation at the surface. 

Surface currents in the ocean are mainly wind-driven. The trade winds determine to a large extent the circulation and SST in the equatorial regions. In the Atlantic ocean, warm waters are carried westward by the equatorial currents and there is a net heat transport from the Southern Ocean northward across the equator, mainly attributable to the North-Brazil current. Some of the warmest SST are found in the Indian Ocean.

As apparent in the animation, waters in the equatorial Pacific are colder at the equator compared to just north and south of it. Why is that?  The so-called Ekman transport, directed at a 90 degree angle to the wind direction,  pushes the waters away from the equator, which leads to upwelling of cold waters to replace them. Another prominent feature around the equator in the Pacific are eddies that are squeezed in-between the equatorial current flowing to the west and the north-equatorial counter current. Evident is also the large east-west temperature contrast, with colder SST in the east caused by coastal upwelling. 

Related papers:
J.-S. von Storch, C. Eden, I. Fast, H. Haak, D. Hernandez-Deckers, E. Maier-Reimer, J. Marotzke, D. Stammer, 2012: An estimate of Lorenz energy cycle for the world
ocean based on the 1/10° STORM/NCEP simulation. J. Phys. Oceanography

STORM NCEP simulation acknowledgments:
Computing resources were provided by the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ).
The STORM NCEP simulation is part of the German STORM consortium project. It is acknowledged by various institutions inside Germany in general and by Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, the CliSAP Cluster of Excellence at Universität Hamburg, Institute of Coastal Research of the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht, and Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research through their financial support in particular.