Exploring New Challenges of High-Resolution SWOT Satellite Altimetry with a Regional Model of the Solomon Sea

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:15 PM
Jacques A Verron1, Pierre Brasseur1, Bugshin Djath1,2, Marina Duran1, Lucile Gaultier3, Lionel Gourdeau2, Angelique Melet2, Jean Marc Molines1 and Clement Ubelmann3, (1)CNRS/LGGE, Grenoble, France, (2)LEGOS, Toulouse, France, (3)Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
The upcoming high-resolution SWOT altimetry satellite will provide an unprecedented description of the ocean dynamic topography for studying sub- and meso-scale processes in the ocean. But there is still much uncertainty on the signal that will be observed. There are many scientific questions that are unresolved about the observability of altimetry at vhigh resolution and on the dynamical role of the ocean meso- and submesoscales. In addition, SWOT data will raise specific problems due to the size of the data flows. These issues will probably impact the data assimilation approaches for future scientific or operational oceanography applications.

In this work, we propose to use a high-resolution numerical model of the Western Pacific Solomon Sea as a regional laboratory to explore such observability and dynamical issues, as well as new data assimilation challenges raised by SWOT.

The Solomon Sea connects subtropical water masses to the equatorial ones through the low latitude western boundary currents and could potentially modulate the tropical Pacific climate. In the South Western Pacific, the Solomon Sea exhibits very intense eddy kinetic energy levels, while relatively little is known about the mesoscale and submesoscale activities in this region. The complex bathymetry of the region, complicated by the presence of narrow straits and numerous islands, raises specific challenges. So far, a Solomon sea model configuration has been set up at 1/36° resolution.

Numerical simulations have been performed to explore the meso- and submesoscales dynamics. The numerical solutions which have been validated against available in situ data, show the development of small scale features, eddies, fronts and filaments. Spectral analysis reveals a behavior that is consistent with the SQG theory. There is a clear evidence of energy cascade from the small scales including the submesoscales, although those submesoscales are only partially resolved by the model.

In parallel, investigations have been conducted using image assimilation approaches in order to explore the richness of high-resolution altimetry missions. These investigations illustrate the potential benefit of combining tracer fields (SST, SSS and spiciness) with high-resolution SWOT data to estimate the fine-scale circulation.