Remote sensing of the Indo-Pacific region: ocean colour, sea level, winds and sea surface temperatures

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The 1997-1998 ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) was not only the largest event of the century but also the most comprehensively observed. Satellite data were employed for ocean colour, sea level, winds, sea surface temperature (SST), and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) were used to describe the response of the surface marine ecosystem associated with the ENSO event. Some of the large-scale anomalies in ocean colour include elevated biological activity to the north of the Equator in the Pacific coincident with lower sea levels associated with the classic ENSO-horseshoe pattern ecosystem response to the anomalous upwelling in the eastern Indian Ocean caused by the 1997-1998 dipole event, and the dramatic eastward propagating feature in the Equatorial Pacific in response to the La Niña dynamics. Ocean general circulation model (OGCM) experiments show that capturing the high-frequency wind changes is crucial for simulating the La Niña and the coupled biological-physical model (OBGCM) runs clearly show that higher frequency winds are also important for capturing the mean upwelling and nutrient supply into the euphotic zone. Thus, the QuickSCAT winds are expected to play a major role in ecosystem modelling in the future. This study shows the utility of satellite data for understanding not only ocean circulation but also the coupled ecosystem variability. Morcover, it is also shown that spatio-temporal resolution of the satellite winds will directly affect the accuracy of oceanic and ecosystem simulations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: ESSIC, University of Maryland College Park MD 20742 USA 2: Raytheon/STSS, Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes NASA/GSFC Greenbelt MD 20771 USA 3: Universities Space Research Association 7501 Forbes Blvd Seabrook MD 20706 USA 4: NASA/GSFC Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes Greenbelt MD 20771 USA

Publication date: April 1, 2004

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