OCB3034 Main Page

FIU Home

FIU Marine Biology Home

Dept. Biology Home

Frank Jochem Home


The Oceanic Heat Budget

The oceanic heat budget is the result of heat gain and loss at any given site on the ocean surface. The ocean surface is the site of heat and energy exchange between the oceans and the atmosphere. The oceanic heat budget can be parameterized as:

QT  = QI + QLW + QS + QL + QV   [W m-2]
with QT = total heat flux, and
    • QI insulation by sunlight:
      • Length of day (latitude

      • Height of sun (latitude, season, daytime
        Clouds, dust, aerosols, waves
    • QLW longwave radiation from sea
      • Clouds, ice cover, waves, 
      • CO2, water temperature
    • QS sensible heat flux:
      • Wind speed
      • Air sea temp. difference
    • QL latent heat flux: heat carried by evaporated water
      • Increase with high wind and low humidity
    • QV heat transport by advection: currents
      • General heat transport from southern to northern hemisphere
      • Gulf Stream as central heater for northern Europe
      • Oceans and atmosphere each transport ~½ of heat needed to warm higher latitudes


    Upper: Zonal averages of heat transfer to and from the ocean; Lower:
    Net heat flux through the sea surface

    Northward heat transport for 1988 in each ocean and the total transport summed over all oceans

    The net heat loss from the oceans is largest in mid-latitudes and offshore of Japan and New England

For more information see