Sea surface salinity variability in the East China Sea observed by the Aquarius instrument

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Seungbum Kim1, Jae-Hak Lee2, Paolo de Matthaeis3, Simon H Yueh4, chang-Soo Hong2, Ig_Chan Pang5 and Gary S E Lagerloef6, (1)Jet Propulsion Lab, Pasadena, CA, United States, (2)KORDI Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, Ansan, South Korea, (3)Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (5)Jeju National University, Jeju, South Korea, (6)Earth & Space Research, Seattle, WA, United States
This study demonstrates that the spaceborne Aquarius instrument is able to monitor the sea surface salinity (SSS) variations in the East China Sea (ECS), where routine observations are difficult. The two geophysical contaminants enter the sidelobes of the Aquarius antenna and bias the coastal SSS low: the emission from the land surface and the radiofrequency interference (RFI). Away from about one Aquarius pixel (150 km) from the coastline, the Aquarius SSS is fairly insensitive (less than about 0.2 psu) to the radiometric details of the method to correct for the land emission. The ascending orbits appear to be affected by unfiltered RFI much less than the descending tracks. The Aquarius SSS along the ascending tracks is low over the ECS by 0.40 to 0.93 psu (with respect to the in situ data during the two separate 7-day periods) and is biased low by 0.41 to 1.07 psu (accuracy, or the time-mean of difference from the regional model along three Aquarius tracks over a 18-month period). The presence of the ascending and descending differences in the Aquarius SSS, and the spatially widespread bias suggest that the bias is attributed to the unfiltered RFI originating from strong point sources (rather than to the land contamination from weak distributed sources, or to other seasonally-varying geophysical contaminants). Despite the bias, the Aquarius data describe well the temporal and spatial variability of the ECS SSS. The temporal trend and magnitude of salinity changes agree remarkably between Aquarius and a regional numerical model, during both the freshwater discharge season from the Yangtze river and the rest of the year. The river discharge rate correlates with the Aquarius SSS with the coefficient of 0.71 on a seasonal scale with the discharge leading the SSS changes. The Aquarius SSS increases away from the coast, in response to the river outflow. The interannual changes in the Aquarius SSS capture the effect of the regional drought in summer 2013.

Kim et al., in revision: Sea surface salinity variability in the East China Sea observed by the Aquarius, J. Geophys. Res.