Sea Surface Salinity Variability in Response to the Congo River Discharge
Friday, 19 December 2014
Sea surface salinity (SSS) variability associated with the Congo River discharge is examined using Aquarius satellite-retrieved SSS data and vertical profiles of salinity measured by the Argo floats. The Congo River plume can be clearly identified in the Aquarius SSS data with a westward extension of 500 to 1000 km off the coast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The peak amplitude of the SSS variability associated with the Congo River discharge exceeds 2.0 psu. Using the first two years of Aquarius data, a well-defined seasonal cycle is described: maximum fresh-water anomalies are found in the boreal winter and spring seasons. The fresh-water anomalies during the 2012-2013 winter and spring seasons are significantly fresher than the 2011-2012 winter and spring seasons. Vertical profiles of salinity derived from the Argo floats reveal that these fresh-water anomalies can be traced to 40 meters below the sea surface. Combining the Aquarius SSS data with the Argo vertical profiles of salinity, the 3D volume of these fresh-water anomalies can be inferred and used to estimate the Congo River discharge. Reasonably good agreement is found between the Congo River discharge as observed by a stream gauge at Kinshasa and that estimated from the combined Aquarius and Argo data, indicating that Aquarius data can be used to close the fresh-water budget between the coastal ocean and the Congo River. The precipitation minus evaporation portion of the freshwater flux is found to play a secondary role in this region.