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Abstract: This study examines the upper-ocean processes controlling the mixed layer temperature in the western Gulf of Mexico (GOM) through estimating the contributing terms in the heat equation, with an emphasis on eddies' role. The major heat contributing terms for the upper GOM were estimated using two ocean reanalysis datasets: an eddy-resolving HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) and a Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA). Analysis of net surface heat fluxes from four datasets reveals that the long-term mean net surface heat flux cools the northern GOM and warms the southern GOM. Two regions are focused for analysis: an eddy-rich region where LCEs are energetic, and the southwestern Gulf where eddy activity is relatively weak and the features of near surface temperature differ from the eddy-rich region. An eddy-rich region in the western GOM is defined based on the eddy kinetic energy derived from satellite sea surface heights. The long-term mean horizontal heat advection causes a weak warming over most of the eddy rich region, partly attributed to the flow-temperature configuration that the long-term and seasonally mean flow is nearly parallel to the corresponding mean isotherms. By contrast, the temporal mean vertical heat advection causes a strong warming in the eddy rich region, partly balancing the cooling caused by net surface heat flux. The temporal mean eddy heat flux convergence in the western GOM, whose positive and negative values are not small at some locations, appears heterogeneous in space, resulting in a small term for the western GOM when area averaged. The persistent warm water in the southwestern Gulf is primarily caused by the net warming from net surface heat flux rather than from eddies and heat advection.
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