Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Robert H. Weisberg, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Gary T. Mitchum, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Mark A. Luther, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Duane E. Waliser, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Robert. A. Weller, Ph. D.


Coastal ocean observations, Surface fluxes, Relative humidity, Climatologies, One-dimensional temperature balance


Ocean-atmosphere fluxes on the West Florida Shelf (WFS) coastal ocean region are investigated using observations and derived surface fluxes from an array of buoys deployed between 1998 and 2003. The observed annual cycle shows that water column temperatures increase and are stratified when heat flux is positive, and they decrease and are well mixed when it is negative. Water temperature is minimum (maximum) when heat flux switches sign from negative (positive) to positive (negative) in early spring (autumn). Tropical and extra-tropical events help define the seasonal characteristics of the water temperature. Despite considerable daily and synoptic variability in relative humidity, observations on the WFS show that the monthly mean values are nearly constant at about 75%. Winter relative humidity varies from less than 50% to over 100% (supersaturation values of up to 3% are recorded and coincide with fog on shore) as extra-tropical fronts move over the WFS. Sensor distribution shows small spatial variations in relative humidity in the coastal ocean environment that depends on high frequency variability in meteorological conditions and low-frequency variability in oceanic conditions. Comparisons with observations show that standard climatologies are unable to reproduce spatial variability on the WFS, especially in relative humidity and surface heat flux components that are dependent on sea surface temperature.

Model experiments show that careful attention must be paid in calculating and applying surface heat fluxes. Observations and models are employed to assess the relative importance of surface fluxes and convergence of heat flux by the ocean circulation in controlling ocean temperature. In spring and autumn, seasonal change in water temperature is mainly controlled by surface heat flux with smaller contributions by ocean convergence, but synoptic scale variability is controlled by both surface heat flux and ocean circulation. Surface fluxes are of primary importance in determining water temperature during the passage of tropical storms or extra-tropical fronts.

The coastal ocean temperature balance is fully three-dimensional. Models must be supported by adequate surface heat flux boundary conditions. These require sufficient numbers of in situ measurement points for constraining atmospheric models. The number of observations will depend on the spatial scales of SST variability.