Science Meetings

The Vertical Dependence in the Horizontal Variability of Salinity and Temperature at the Ocean Surface
Asher, W., Drushka, K., Jessup, A.T., and Clark, D. (25-Feb-16)

Satellite-mounted microwave radiometers measure sea surface salinity (SSS) as an area-averaged quantity in the top centimeter of the ocean over the footprint of the instrument. If the horizontal variability in SSS is large inside this footprint, sub-grid-scale variability in SSS can affect comparison of the satellite-retrieved SSS with in situ measurements. Understanding the magnitude of horizontal variability in SSS over spatial scales that are relevant to the satellite measurements is therefore important. Horizontal variability of SSS at the ocean surface can be studied in situ using data recorded by thermosalinographs (TSGs) that sample water from a depth of a few meters. However, it is possible measurements made at this depth might underestimate the horizontal variability at the surface because salinity and temperature can become vertically stratified in a very near surface layer due to the effects of rain, solar heating, and evaporation. This vertical stratification could prevent horizontal gradients from propagating to the sampling depths of ship-mounted TSGs. This presentation will discuss measurements made using an underway salinity profiling system installed on the R/V Thomas Thompson that made continuous measurements of SSS and SST in the Pacific Ocean. The system samples at nominal depths of 2-m, 3-m, and 5-m, allowing the depth dependence of the horizontal variability in SSS and SST to be measured. Horizontal variability in SST is largest at low wind speeds during daytime, when a diurnal warm layer forms. In contrast, the diurnal signal in the variability of SSS was smaller with variability being slightly larger at night. When studied as a function of depth, the results show that over 100-km scales, the horizontal variability in both SSS and SST at a depth of 2 m is approximately a factor of 4 higher than the variability at 5 m.