Science Meetings

Aquarius Reveals Salinity Structure of Tropical Instability Waves
Lee, T., Lagerloef, G. S. E., Gierach, M. M., Kao, H-Y, Yueh, S. H., and Dohan, K. B. (03-Dec-12)

Sea surface salinity (SSS) measurements from the Aquarius/SAC-D during September-December 2011 provide the first satellite observations of the salinity structure of tropical instability waves (TIWs) in the Pacific. The related SSS anomaly has a magnitude of approximately ±0.5 PSU. Different from sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface height anomaly (SSHA) where TIW-related propagating signals are stronger a few degrees away from the equator, the SSS signature of TIWs is largest near the equator in the eastern equatorial Pacific where salty South Pacific water meets the fresher Inter-tropical Convergence Zone water. The dominant westward propagation speed of SSS near the equator is approximately 1 m/s. This is twice as fast as the 0.5 m/s TIW speed widely reported in the literature, typically from SST and SSHA away from the equator. This difference is attributed to the more dominant 17-day TIWs near the equator that have a 1 m/s dominant phase speed and the stronger 33-day TIWs away from the equator that have a 0.5 m/s dominant phase speed. The results demonstrate the important value of Aquarius in studying TIWs.