Elevated heating by cumulus convection and sea surface temperature gradients are both thought to contribute to surface winds over tropical oceans. The relative strength and role of each mechanism is examined by imposing forcing derived from data on a linear primitive equation model with idealized parameterizations for the two forcings, and comparing the response with observed surface winds. Two test cases are studied: one related to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, and the other related to the "dipole" mode in the tropical Atlantic. It is found that in both cases, elevated heating dominates the surface zonal wind response, and contributes significantly to the meridional wind response, especially in the subtropics and the South Pacific and South Atlantic convergence zone regions. Surface temperature gradients dominate the meridional wind forcing in regions near the equator with strong meridional temperature gradients.
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