Revealing the timing of ocean stratification using remotely-sensed ocean fronts: links with marine predators

Peter I Miller, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Remote Sensing Group, Plymouth, PL1, United Kingdom and Ben R Loveday, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Remote Sensing Group, Plymouth, United Kingdom
Stratification is of critical importance to the mixing and productivity of the ocean, though currently it can only be measured using in situ sampling, profiling buoys or underwater autonomous vehicles. Stratification is understood to affect the surface aggregation of pelagic fish and hence the foraging behaviour and distribution of their predators such as seabirds and cetaceans. Satellite Earth observation sensors cannot directly detect stratification, but can observe surface features related to the presence of stratification, for example shelf-sea fronts that separate tidally-mixed water from seasonally stratified water. This presentation describes a novel algorithm that accumulates evidence for stratification from a sequence of oceanic front maps, and in certain regions can reveal the timing of the seasonal onset and breakdown of stratification. Initial comparisons will be made with seabird locations acquired through GPS tagging. If successful, a remotely-sensed stratification timing index would augment the ocean front metrics already developed at PML, that have been applied in over 20 journal articles relating marine predators to ocean fronts.

The figure below shows a preliminary remotely-sensed 'stratification' index, for 25-31 Jul. 2010, where red indicates water with stronger evidence for stratification.