OBSERVING SURFACE CIRCULATION OF THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN BASIN WITH SATELLITE IMAGERY
Keywords: Mesoscale Eddies, Submesoscale Eddies, Hydrological Fronts, Mediterranean Sea, SST, Chlorophyll-a, SAR
Abstract. In this article, the benefits of using satellite imagery of different types (namely thermal infrared, visible-range, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images) for observing surface circulation of marine basins are being discussed. As a region of interest, we use the Western Mediterranean Basin. At first, the areas with sharpest thermal and chlorophyll-a gradients within the region of interest were defined on a seasonal base using the data provided by Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS). After that, mesoscale eddies were detected using different sea surface temperature (SST) products and, finally, submesoscale vortices were observed with Envisat Advanced SAR imagery. Thus found locations of eddies were compared with locations of the sharpest fronts discovered in the first part of the study, which showed that the biggest, mostly anticyclonic, eddies tended to correspond to locations of main surface currents; smaller cyclonic eddies were mostly attributed to thermal fronts, while submesoscale eddies were distributed quite homogeneous. The observations performed in that way revealed quite prominent basin-, meso- and submesoscale eddy activity in the region of interest. Additionally, significant seasonal variability in the type of surface water stirring was noted. Thus, the maximum of both meso- and submesoscale eddy activity seems to happen during the warm season, while during winter, presumably due to low Richardson numbers typical for the upper water layer, the turbulent features are still undeveloped and of the smaller spatial scale than during the warm period of year.