Response of the sea surface temperature to heatwaves during the France 2022 meteorological summer

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Abstract

The summer of 2022 was memorable and record-breaking, ranking as the second hottest summer in France since 1900, with a seasonal surface air temperature average of 22.7C. In particular, France experienced multiple record-breaking heatwaves during the meteorological summer. As the main heat reservoir of the Earth system, the oceans are at the forefront of events of this magnitude which enhance oceanic disturbances such as marine heatwaves (MHWs). In this study, we investigate the sea surface temperature (SST) of French maritime basins using remotely sensed measurements to track the response of surface waters to the atmospheric heatwaves and determine the intensity of such feedback. Beyond the direct relationship between SSTs and surface air temperatures, we explore the leading atmospheric parameters affecting the upper-layer ocean heat budget. Despite some gaps in data availability, the SSTs measured during the meteorological summer of 2022 were record-breaking, the mean SST was between 1.3 and 2.6 C above the long-term average (1982-2011), and the studied areas experienced between 4 and 22d where the basin-averaged SSTs exceeded the maximum recorded basin-averaged SSTs from 1982 to 2011. We found a significant SST response during heatwave periods with maximum temperatures measured locally at 30.8 C in the north-western Mediterranean Sea. Our results show that in August 2022 (31 July to 13 August), France experienced above-average surface solar radiation correlated with below-average total cloud cover and negative wind speed anomalies. Our attribution analysis based on a simplified mixed-layer heat budget highlights the critical role of ocean-atmosphere fluxes in initiating abnormally warm SSTs, while ocean mixing plays a crucial role in the cessation of such periods. We find that the 2m temperatures and specific humidity that are consistently linked to the advection of warm and moist air masses are key variables across all the studied regions. Our results reveal that the influence of wind on heatwaves is variable and of secondary importance. Moreover, we observe that the incident solar radiation has a significant effect only on the Bay of Biscay (BB) and the English Channel (EC) areas. Our study findings are consistent with previous research and demonstrate the vulnerability of the Mediterranean Sea to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Furthermore, our investigation reveals that the recurring heatwave episodes during the summer of 2022 had an undeniable impact on all the surveyed maritime areas in France. Our study therefore provides valuable insights into the complex mechanisms underlying the ocean-atmosphere interaction and demonstrates the need for an efficient and sustainable operational system combining polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites to monitor the alterations that threaten the oceans in the context of climate change.

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Guinaldo, T., Voldoire, A., Waldman, R., Saux Picart, S., & Roquet, H. (2023). Response of the sea surface temperature to heatwaves during the France 2022 meteorological summer. Ocean Science, 19(3), 629–647. https://doi.org/10.5194/os-19-629-2023

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