Validation of Salinity Data from Surface Drifters

Salinity measurements from 119 surface drifters in 2007-12 were assessed; 80% [Surface Velocity Program with a barometer with a salinity sensor (SVP-BS)] and 75% [SVP with salinity (SVP-S)] of the salinity data were found to be usable, after editing out some spikes. Sudden salinity jumps are found in drifter salinity records that are not always associated with temperature jumps, in particular in the wet tropics. A method is proposed to decide whether and how to correct those jumps, and the uncertainty in the correction applied. Northeast of South America, in a region influenced by the Amazon plume and fresh coastal water, drifter salinity is very variable, but a comparison with data from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite suggests that this variability is usually reasonable. The drifter salinity accuracy is then explored based on comparisons with data from Argo floats and from thermosalinographs (TSGs) of ships of opportunity. SVP-S/SVP-BS drifter records do not usually present significant biases within the first 6 months, but afterward biases sometimes need to be corrected (altogether, 16% of the SVP-BS records). Biases start earlier after 3 months for drifters not protected by antifouling paint. For the few drifters for which large corrections were applied to portions of the record, the accuracy cannot be proven to be better than 0.1 psu, and it cannot be proven to be better than 0.5 psu for data in the largest variability area off northeast South America. Elsewhere, after excluding portions of the records with suspicious salinity jumps or when large corrections were applied, the comparisons rule out average biases in individual drifter salinity record larger than 0.02 psu (midlatitudes) and 0.05 psu (tropics).


Surface observations, Surface layer, Data quality control, Buoy observations

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Reverdin Gilles, Morisset S., Boutin Jacqueline, Martin Nicolas, Sena-Martins M., Gaillard Fabienne, Blouch P., Rolland J., Font J., Salvador J., Fernandez Pili, Stammer D. (2014). Validation of Salinity Data from Surface Drifters. Journal Of Atmospheric And Oceanic Technology. 31 (4). 967-983.,

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