Air-sea interactions in stable atmospheric conditions: Lessons from the desert semi-enclosed Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba)

Shai Abir, Hamish A. McGowan, Yonatan Shaked, Hezi Gildor, Efrat Morin, Nadav G. Lensky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurately quantifying air-sea heat and gas exchange is crucial for comprehending thermoregulation processes and modeling ocean dynamics; these models incorporate bulk formulae for air-sea exchange derived in unstable atmospheric conditions. Therefore, their applicability in stable atmospheric conditions, such as desert-enclosed basins in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba (coral refugium), Red Sea, and Persian Gulf, is unclear. We present 2-year eddy covariance results from the Gulf of Eilat, a natural laboratory for studying air-sea interactions in stable atmospheric conditions, which are directly related to ocean dynamics. The measured mean evaporation, 3.22gmyr-1, approximately double that previously estimated by bulk formulae, exceeds the heat flux provided by radiation. Notably, in arid environments, the wind speed seasonal trend drives maximum evaporation in summer, with a minimum winter rate. The higher evaporation rate appears when elevated wind, particularly in the afternoon, coincides with an increase in vapor pressure difference. The inability of the bulk formulae approach to capture the seasonal (opposite from our measurements) and annual trend of evaporation is linked to errors in quantifying the atmospheric boundary layer stability parameter. Most of the year, there is a net cooling effect of surface water (79gWm-2), primarily through evaporation. The substantial heat deficit is compensated by the advection of heat via northbound currents from the Red Sea, which we indirectly quantify from energy balance considerations. Cold and dry synoptic-scale winds induce extreme heat loss through air-sea fluxes and are correlated with the destabilization of the water column during winter and initiation of vertical water-column mixing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6177-6195
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - 28 May 2024

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