Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 28 Issue 01

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Volume 28, No. 1
Pages 96 - 105


Sea Surface Salinity Observations with Lagrangian Drifters in the Tropical North Atlantic During SPURS: Circulation, Fluxes, and Comparisons with Remotely Sensed Salinity from Aquarius

By Luca R. Centurioni , Verena Hormann, Yi Chao , Gilles Reverdin , Jordi Font, and Dong-Kyu Lee 
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Article Abstract

The Global Drifter Program deployed a total of 144 Lagrangian drifters drogued at 15 m depth, including 88 equipped with salinity sensors, in support of the first Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study (SPURS-1) in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean with the goal of measuring salt fluxes associated with surface currents. The quality-controlled data set consists of 996,583 salinity observations collected between August 2012 and April 2014. A comparison of the drifter salinities with Aquarius satellite sea surface salinity (SSS) data shows that the lifespan of the salinity sensor fitted to the drifters is of the order of one year. The salinity and velocity data from the drifters were used to validate salt transport divergence computed with satellite products, with satellite salinity taken from the standard Aquarius v3.0 data set. The results indicate good agreement between the two independent methods, and also demonstrate that the effect of the eddy field combined with SSS variability at the surface dominates the signal. SSS variability within spatial bins as compared to Aquarius-beam footprints measured by drifters can be in excess of 0.1 psu. This result suggests that careful evaluation of the representation error is required when single-point in situ measurements, such as those collected by Argo floats, are used to validate spatially averaged Aquarius salinity data.


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