Articles | Volume 26, issue 4
13 May 2008
 | 13 May 2008

Relationship between downwelling surface shortwave radiative fluxes and sea surface temperature over the tropical Pacific: AMIP II models versus satellite estimates

C. Rodriguez-Puebla, R. T. Pinker, and S. Nigam

Abstract. Incident shortwave radiation at the Earth's surface is the driving force of the climate system. Understanding the relationship between this forcing and the sea surface temperature, in particular, over the tropical Pacific Ocean is a topic of great interest because of possible climatic implications. The objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between downwelling shortwave radiative fluxes and sea surface temperature by using available data on radiative fluxes. We assess first the shortwave radiation from three General Circulation Models that participated in the second phase of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP II) against estimates of such fluxes from satellites. The shortwave radiation estimated from the satellite is based on observations from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project D1 data and the University of Maryland Shortwave Radiation Budget model (UMD/SRB). Model and satellite estimates of surface radiative fluxes are found to be in best agreement in the central equatorial Pacific, according to mean climatology and spatial correlations. We apply a Canonical Correlation Analysis to determine the interrelated areas where shortwave fluxes and sea surface temperature are most sensitive to climate forcing. Model simulations and satellite estimates of shortwave fluxes both capture well the interannual signal of El Niño-like variability. The tendency for an increase in shortwave radiation from the UMD/SRB model is not captured by the AMIP II models.