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Seasonal dynamics of sea surface salinity off Panama: The far Eastern Pacific Fresh Pool

posted Apr 20, 2012, 7:00 AM by Salinity CERSAT
A work conducted by  G. Alory, C. Maes, T. Delcroix ( (LEGOS/OMP, UPS / CNRS / CNES / IRD) , N.Reul (Ifremer/LOS) and S.Illig:
The freshest surface waters in the tropical Pacific are found at its eastern boundary. Using in situ observations, we depict the quasi-permanent presence of a far eastern Pacific fresh pool with sea surface salinity (SSS) lower than 33, which is confined between Panama's west coast and 85°W in December and extends westward to 95°W in April. Strong SSS fronts are found at the outer edge of this fresh pool.
Left: mean seasonal cycle of SSS from Thermo-Salinograph data on board ships measured from 1950 to 2010 along the track illustrated by dash-dotted lines on the right plot. Right: monthly surface salinity from SMOS satellite in April and december 2010.
We investigate the seasonal dynamics of the fresh pool using complementary satellite wind, rain, sea level and in situ oceanic current data at the surface, along with hydrographic profiles. The fresh pool appears off Panama due to the strong summer rains associated with the northward migration of the ITCZ over Central America in June. During the second half of the year, the eastward-flowing North Equatorial Counter-Current keeps it trapped to the coast and strengthens the SSS front on its western edge. During winter, as the ITCZ moves southward, the northeasterly Panama gap wind creates a southwestward jet-like current in its path with a dipole of Ekman pumping/eddies on its flanks. As a result, upwelling in the Panama Bight brings to the surface cold and salty waters which erode the fresh pool on its eastern side while both the jet current and the enhanced South Equatorial Current stretch the fresh pool westward until it nearly disappears in May. New SMOS satellite SSS data proves able to capture the main seasonal features of the fresh pool and monitor its spatial extent.
For more informations:
Gaël Alory, Christophe Maes, Thierry Delcroix, Nicolas Reul, Serena Illig, 2012: Seasonal dynamics of Sea Surface Salinity off Panama: the Far Eastern Pacific Fresh Pool. Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 117, C04028, doi:10.1029/2011JC007802, 2012. (
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