What is the Ocean Heat Budget?

The ocean covers nearly 71% of the Earth’s surface and is the largest solar energy collector. As a result, it plays an important role in maintaining the global energy balance and drives atmospheric processes. The heat exchange processes across the ocean surface is represented by the ocean heat budget. The ocean heat budget consists of ocean heat gains and losses, including shortwave radiation from the sun, longwave radiation from the ocean, latent heat flux, sensible heat flux, and heat transfer by currents.

How are Terms of the Ocean Heat Budget Measured?

Ocean surface heat fluxes play a significant role in the generation and evolution of atmospheric phenomena. Estimates of surface heat flux largely come from in-situ measurements from buoys and flux towers, which suffer from significant gaps in temporal and spatial coverage. Previous and current satellite missions attempt to fill these gaps through indirect measurements (i.e., they measure necessary variables, such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity, to derive sensible and latent heat fluxes). However, current remote sensing instruments have their own limitations, such as infrequent coverage, signals attenuated by precipitation or both. The CYGNSS mission overcomes these limitations over the tropical and subtropical oceans by providing improved coverage in nearly all weather conditions.