The salinity signature of the equatorial Pacific cold tongue as revealed by the satellite SMOS mission

Type Article
Date 2014-12
Language English
Author(s) Maes Christophe1, Reul NicolasORCID2, Behringer David3, O'Kane Terence4
Affiliation(s) 1 : Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS), Toulouse, France
2 : Institut Français de Recherche et d’Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER), Laboratoire d’Océanographie Spatiale (LOS), Toulon, France
3 : NOAA/NWS/NCEP, NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, College Park, Maryland, 20740, USA
4 : CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia
Source Geoscience Letters (2196-4092) (Springer Science + Business Media), 2014-12 , Vol. 1 , N. 1 , P. 1-7
DOI 10.1186/s40562-014-0017-5
Keyword(s) Physical oceanography, Cold tongue, Salinity, Remote sensing data, Pacific ocean
Abstract The space-borne measurements of the SMOS mission reveal for the first time the complete features of the sea surface salinity (SSS) signature at the full scale of the Pacific basin. The SSS field in the equatorial cold tongue is typically found to be larger than 35.1 within a narrow 2° band of latitude that is positioned slightly south of the equator and that stretches across the eastern Pacific basin up to the Galapagos Islands. On the northern edge of the eastern equatorial Pacific this signature results in a very strong horizontal gradient (larger than 2 units over 100 km) with the fresh waters of the Panama warm pool. By considering a water density criterion, it can be shown that the cold tongue is characterized by a strong seasonal cycle with a 3°C amplitude in SST where the warm season of February-March contrasts with the cold period extending from September to November. If the present ocean reanalyzes are able to capture these features, then the assimilation of the SMOS data becomes a worthwhile objective in order to depict more accurately the salinity signature of the cold tongue of the tropical Pacific.
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