- See the latest updates from the Aquarius Principal Investigator.
Understanding Ocean Features
This promising early scientific result from Aquarius motivated scientists to take a new look at a category of major oceanic features - thousands of kilometers in length - known as "Tropical Instability Waves" (TIWs). These westward-traveling waves have been recognized for decades as north-south deflections in the tongues of cool water that extend along the equator, off the west coasts of Africa (Atlantic) and South America (Pacific). The cool tongue of seawater in the equatorial Pacific, for example, covers one-quarter of Earth's circumference. In this vast region, TIW activity has been associated with regions of localized high phytoplankton productivity and accumulations of marine organisms.
Watch a video presentation about this topic.
- Lagerloef, G., 2012, Satellite Mission Monitors Ocean Surface Salinity, Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 93(25): 233-234.
- Lee, T., G. Lagerloef, M. Gierach, H-Y Kao, S. Yueh, and K. Dohan, 2012, Aquarius reveals salinity structure of tropical instability waves, Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L12610, doi:10.1029/2012GL052232.
River Plumes and Hurricane IntensityAlong with sea surface temperature, satellite-derived Aquarius and Salinity Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) data are being used to better understand how the ocean contributes to hurricanes. A key area of research is interest where the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean. At seasonal peak, these rivers create a plume of low salinity water that is more than 1 meter (3.3 feet) deep and covers a million square kilometers (over 380,000 square miles). This plume creates a barrier layer that inhibits ocean mixing and warms the sea surface to over 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Such warming helps to fuel hurricanes, producing nearly 50% increase in intensification rate.
In September 2011, soon after the Aquarius instrument began collecting data, Hurricane Katia crossed the Amazon/Orinoco plume. Usually, ocean mixing by hurricane winds brings deep, cold water to the surface, leaving a distinct trace (or "wake") of low sea surface temperature. However, Hurricane Katia's effect on sea surface temperature was much weaker inside the plume than outside of it. Sea surface salinity inside the plume, on the other hand, showed a strong increase in the wake of Hurricane Katia: a rise of 1.5 practical salinity units (equivalent to 1.5 parts per thousand) that covered over 100,000 square kilometers (over 38,000 square miles).
- Video: Mixed Layer Impact of Hurricane Katia
- Podcast: Mission Development Since the First Light Image
- Grodsky, S., N. Reul, G. Lagerloef, G. Reverdin, J. Carton, B. Chapron, Y. Quilfen, V. Kudryavtsev, and H-Y. Kao, 2012, Haline hurricane wake in the Amazon/Orinoco plume: Aquarius/SAC-D and SMOS observations, Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L20603, doi:10.1029/2012GL053335.
- Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) Aquarius Science Workshop (Brest, France; April 2013)
- Salinity Science Sessions at the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) Meeting (San Francisco, December 2012)
- EOS Transactions: Satellite mission monitors ocean surface salinity (June 2012)
- 7th Aquarius/SAC-D Science Team Meeting presentations (Buenos Aires, April 2012)