Science Meetings

The Relative Influence of Surface Sea Salinity and Temperature on Surface Density Gradient in the Tropical Pacific Ocean
Hasson, A., and Lee, T. (27-Nov-14)

Horizontal gradients of surface density in the ocean are important to frontal genesis and instability associated with ocean currents. They also have significant implications to air-sea interaction and biogeochemistry. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and Salinity (SSS) both contribute to the horizontal density gradient. For the first time surface density can be globally inferred from remote sensing with unprecedented spatial and temporal scales. Since August 2011, NASA’s Aquarius/SAC-D satellite mission and since January 2010, ESA’s SMOS mission have provided global high resolution SSS datasets. In this study, we use various satellite measurements of SSS and SST to characterize the mean spatial structure and temporal variability of surface density gradients in the tropical Pacific Ocean from 2011 to present. In particular, we identified the regions where salinity or temperature is dominant over the other one in adjusting surface density gradients. We also focus on the relative contributions of SSS and SST on density and contrast them with the estimate from in-situ data based on Argo float measurements. The analysis of multiple datasets of SSS and SST from satellite and in-situ observations allow us to estimate the uncertainties in computing surface density gradients. This comparison furthermore highlights the regions where satellite measurements provide estimated surface gradients at finer scales than sparser in situ observations. The results have strong implications to the interpretation of the characteristics of tropical instability waves as seen from satellite measurements of SSS and SST.