The southeast Indian Ocean is a region where the ocean loses a lot of heat to the atmosphere. However, until now there have not been any direct measurements of the heat flux (the transfer of heat) from ocean to atmosphere. Other data sets that we use to understand this exchange do not agree on its size.

In this study, we use two years of measurements from a flux mooring deployed near 25°S, 100°E, combined with satellite data and model outputs to understand the seasonal changes in air‐sea fluxes and the role of ocean currents in controlling ocean surface temperatures in the southeast Indian Ocean.

We found that the amount of heat stored in the surface mixed layer of the ocean is primarily the result of a balance between heat fluxes across the air‐sea interface and the cooling of the surface ocean caused by mixing with deep water below.

The heat transported by ocean currents is highly impacted by eddies and waves spreading out from the coast of Western Australia, which, at times also contributes to the heat balance in this region.

The results of this study improve our understanding of how heat moves between the ocean and atmosphere to affect our climate and will help refine computer model projections of future climate change.

  • Paper: Cyriac, A., McPhaden, M. J., Phillips, H. E., Bindoff, N. L., & Feng, M. ( 2019). Seasonal evolution of the surface layer heat balance in the eastern subtropical Indian Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124.