SMOS and « La Niña » signature….

Category : CATDS, L2, Model, Ocean, Satellite

Analyzing the 2010-2011 La Niña signature in the tropical Pacific sea surface salinity using in situ data, SMOS observations and a numerical simulation

Audrey Hasson(1, *), Thierry Delcroix(1), Jacqueline Boutin(2),

Raphael Dussin(3), Joaquim Ballabrera-Poy(4)

The tropical Pacific Ocean remained in a La Niña phase from mid 2010 to mid-2012. The near-surface salinity signature of this cold El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase is shown in the figure below and analysed in Hasson et. al (2014) using a combination of numerical model output, in situ data and SMOS satellite salinity products.

boutin-la nina

Figure: Sea Surface Salinity anomalies relative to each product 2010-2011 monthly climatology (pss) in July 2010 (left panels) and July 2011 (right panels) for (a, d) ISAS in situ product (b, e) SMOS and (c, f) the model. Blue lines represent the Voluntary Observing Ship routes and the 170°E-180° hatched areas computation zones. (Figure from Hasson et al., 2014)

Comparisons of all salinity products show a good agreement between them, with a RMS error of 0.2-0.3 between the thermosalinograph (TSG) and SMOS data and between the TSG and model data. The last 6 months of 2010 (La Niña) are characterized by an unusually strong tri-polar anomaly captured by the three salinity products in the western half of the tropical Pacific. A positive SSS anomaly sits north of 10ºS (>0.5), a negative tilted anomaly lies between 10ºS and 20ºS and a positive one south of 20ºS. In 2011, anomalies shift south and amplify up to 0.8, except for the one south of 20ºS. Equatorial SSS changes are mainly the result of anomalous zonal advection, resulting in negative anomalies during El Niño (early 2010), and positive ones thereafter during La Niña. The mean seasonal and interannual poleward drift then exports those anomalies toward the south in the southern hemisphere, resulting in the aforementioned tripolar anomaly. The vertical salinity flux at the bottom of the mixed layer tends to resist the surface salinity changes. The observed basin-scale La Niña SSS signal is then compared in Hasson et al. (2014) with the historical 1998-1999 La Niña event using both observations and modelling.

for more details see Hasson, A., T. Delcroix, J. Boutin, R. Dussin, and J. Ballabrera-Poy (2014), Analyzing the 2010–2011 La Niña signature in the tropical Pacific sea surface salinity using in situ data, SMOS observations, and a numerical simulation, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 119(6), 3855-3867, doi:10.1002/2013JC009388.

(1) LEGOS, UMR 5566, CNES, CNRS, IRD, Université de Toulouse 14 avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France

(2) LOCEAN, UMR7159, CNRS, UPMC, IRD, MNHN, Paris, France

(3) LEGI, Grenoble, France

(4) ICM/CSIC, Barcelona, Spain

(*) Corresponding author, Currently at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA

A SSS trip from the surface to the thermocline…

Category : L2, Non classé, Ocean

By Christophe Maes

Retrievals of the Sea Surface Salinity from space-borne mission like SMOS or Aquarius SAC-D provide for the first time an essential variable in the determination of ocean mass. If the field will reveal a lot of new signal at the surface its influence on the ocean dynamics is even more important at depths where it participates to the stratification of the water column. Concomitant with temperature profiles, reliable in situ observations of salinity at depth are now available at the global ocean scales. Above the main pycnocline (50-250m in the Tropics), Maes and O’Kane (2014) have recently shown that the stabilizing effect due to salinity could be isolated from its thermal counterpart by separating its role in the computation of the buoyancy frequency. In addition, relationships between such salinity stratification at depths and the SSS are shown to be well defined and quasi-linear in the tropics (see figure), providing some indication that in the future, analyses that consider both satellite surface salinity measurements at the surface and vertical profiles at depth will result in a better determination of the role of the salinity stratification in climate prediction systems.


Maes, C., and T. J. O’Kane (2014), Seasonal variations of the upper ocean salinity stratification in the Tropics, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 119, 1706–1722, doi:10.1002/2013JC009366.

SMOS and Hurricane tracking!

Category : CATDS, L2, Ocean

Nicolas Reul and his team have been busy finding ways to better track, monitor, tropical storms and hurricane (high wind speed) from SMOS data as depicted in several previous posts on this very blog.

Following this, in the framework of the ESA STSE- SMOS+STORM Evolution project a more exhaustive study was initiated as shown on their page.

Just to whet your appetite here is a lengthy but interesting animation showing the wind speed retrievals (click on the picture to get it started) over the Pacific ocean


Using SMOS to analyze the variability of the South Pacific Sea Surface Salinity maximum

Category : L3, Ocean

By Jacqueline BOUTIN

Understanding the variability of high-salinity surface waters, as shown in Fig. 1 for the south-eastern tropical Pacific, is important to improve our interpretation of climate and hydrological cycle changes at different time scales. SMOS CATDS-CEC LOCEAN SSS products have been used , in complement to Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) thermo-salinograph data obtained from the French SSS Observation Service, to validate and understand the seasonal variability of the South Pacific Sea Surface Salinity maximum simulated by an ocean general circulation model with no direct SSS relaxation.


Fig. 1. Mean 1990-2011 modelled mixed-layer salinity. The blue lines represent the Matisse Ship routes of 2010 and 2011.

All products reveal a consistent seasonal cycle of the displacement of the 36-isohaline barycenter (Fig. 2; about +/-400 km in longitude) in response to changes in the South Pacific Convergence Zone location and Easterly winds intensity respectively associated with changes in precipitation and evaporation.


Fig.2. Location of isohaline 36 (simulated) and of its barycentre (dots: model; stars: SMOS) for various months (colors).

The SSS from 8 VOS transects compare remarkably well with collocated SMOS SSS averaged over 100km, 18 days (std difference=0.2), as exemplified in Fig. 3 along a shipping track running from New Zealand to Panama ; the comparison with simulated SSS is slightly degraded due to a few degrees latitudinal shift of the simulated SSS maximum (std difference=0.26).


Fig. 3. Example of comparison between SMOS (dots), VOS (straight line), and simulated (dashed line) SSS as a function of latitude.

Model results and in situ measurements further indicate a low frequency westward shift of the 36-isohaline barycenter (about 1400 km since 1992) that could not be linked to ENSO and may reflect the signature of decadal changes and/or global warming.

Details can be found in: Hasson, A., T. Delcroix, and J. Boutin (2013), Formation and variability of the South Pacific Sea Surface Salinity maximum in recent decades, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 118, doi:10.1002/jgrc.20367.