Haline hurricane wake in the Amazon/Orinoco plume: AQUARIUS/SACD and SMOS observations

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Abstract

[1] At its seasonal peak the Amazon/Orinoco plume covers a region of 106 km2in the western tropical Atlantic with more than 1 m of extra freshwater, creating a near-surface barrier layer (BL) that inhibits mixing and warms the sea surface temperature (SST) to >29°C. Here new sea surface salinity (SSS) observations from the Aquarius/SACD and SMOS satellites help elucidate the ocean response to hurricane Katia, which crossed the plume in early fall, 2011. Its passage left a 1.5 psu high haline wake covering >105 km2 (in its impact on density, the equivalent of a 3.5°C cooling) due to mixing of the shallow BL. Destruction of this BL apparently decreased SST cooling in the plume, and thus preserved higher SST and evaporation than outside. Combined with SST, the new satellite SSS data provide a new and better tool to monitor the plume extent and quantify tropical cyclone upper ocean responses with important implications for forecasting.

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