A linear, zonally averaged model of the interaction between the tropical Atlantic (TA) atmosphere and ocean is presented. A balance between evaporation and meridional heat advection in the mixed layer determines the sea surface temperature tendency. The atmosphere is a fixed-depth, sub-cloud layer in which the specific humidity anomaly is determined by a steady-state balance between evaporation, meridional advection, and a parameterized humidity exchange with the free atmosphere. When the model is integrated, forced with observed surface wind anomalies from 1965 to the present, its simulation of the observed sea surface temperature (SST) is realistic and comparable to a simulation with a full ocean GCM. A statistical representation of surface winds and their relationship to the SST gradient across the equator is used to formulate and test a coupled model of their regional variability. Forced on both sides of the equator, in the trade-wind regions, with "white-noise'' windspeed perturbations, the SST-wind relationship in the near-equatorial region feeds back positively on existing SST anomalies and gives rise to decadal variability.
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