You are on page 1of 7

THE USE OF ERS-1/2 SAR TO THE STUDY OF OCEAN SURFACE FEATURES IN THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA, MEXICO

A. Martnez-Daz-de-Len Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanolgicas, UABC A. Postal #453, Ensenada Baja California, Mxico. asdrubal@faro.ens.uabc.mx

INTRODUCTION The Gulf of California (GC), a large semi-enclosed sea located in northwestern Mexico, between the Baja California Peninsula and the Mexican main land (Fig. 1), is a very interesting and complex region with considerable oceanographic and meteorological interest [1], [2]. Among the outstanding oceanographic features of the GC are its large, annual sea surface temperature variability, that is not only confined to coastal areas but occurs in offshore regions as well; its impressive tidal range, that increases gradually from the Gulf entrance up to Tiburon Island and than rapidly towards its head, where the amplitude of spring tides may be as large as 9 m [3]; the wind-driven upwelling areas, along the east cost during winter and spring and on the west coast during summer, have some of the highest surface nutrient concentrations of many oceans of the world [4]; There is a seasonal reversing gyre located in the northern Gulf, cyclonic in the summer and anticyclonic in the winter [5]; The high tidal range and the complicated bottom topography produce strong tidal currents along the GC, especially in the vicinity of Tiburon Island, where strong tidal, mixing fronts and high internal wave activity are observed. Furthermore, the GC is the largest evaporative basing of the Pacific Ocean [1]. Until now the complex oceanographic processes occurring in the GC have been investigated mainly by sampling from insitu instruments aided in some occasions by nearly-coincident, infra-red derived, sea surface temperature images. Unfortunately, in most cases, insitu measurements do not provide adequate spatial and temporal cover of the intrinsic scales of variability associated with these oceanographic processes, and due to cloud cover, a common situation to many coastal areas, infrared imagery is not always a success. Since many coastal features produce not only a sea surface temperature anomaly but also a modulation in the sea surface roughness, such as the modulation of the small ocean surface waves while propagating into and/or across the currents associated to thermal fronts [6], or the increased spectral density of the short waves associated with warm gyres and induced by changes in the marine atmospheric boundary layer stability [7], alternatively observational methods using spaceborne microwave sensors have been proposed recently to study the complex processes occurring in the marine coastal environment [8]. The objective of this paper is to show that the ERS-2 (Second European Remote sensing Satellite) SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) can play a valuable role in observing the ocean surface manifestation of many of the complex oceanographic processes occurring within the Gulf of California. THE SAR IMAGES The SAR images presented and discussed in this work were acquired ove r the northern Gulf of California by the ERS-2 SAR, and are the ESA precision image (PRI) product. Their geographical location and the area they cover is shown in Fig. 1. MANIFESTATION OF EDDIES Based in geostrophic calculations, [9] showed that the surface circulation of the Northern Gulf of California (NGC) consists on a closed gyre that is cyclonic during the summer and anticyclonic in spring and autumn. Previously [10] proposed a similar circulation pattern from the analysis of the distribution of suspended sediments expressed in visible photographs taken by the GEMINI, APOLLO, and SKYLAB astronauts. Some evidence of this closed gyre type of circulation has been observed in infrared satellite images [5, 11]. More recently, [5] analyzed the first direct observations of the circulation in the NGC, using satellite-tracked drifters and hydrographic surveys. Their observations indicate that during summer (September-October) there is a well-defined cyclonic gyre that occupies all the central and southern area of the NGC, with currents of the order of 30 cm s-1. During winter (March-April) an anticyclonic gyre is

developed, slightly displaced toward the NW, and of weaker circulation than the summer gyre. Due to the scarcity of direct observations it is not certain if the anticyclonic circulations sampled by [5] is a permanent winter feature of the NGC.

Fig. 1. Map showing the geographical location of the Gulf of California, Mexico. The rectangles indicate the area covered by the different SAR images considered in the paper, which are identified with a number that corresponds to the figure in which the image is displayed.

Fig. 2 shows an image acquired over the NGC along a descending track on 27 February 1999. The feature of higher contrast is the meander or eddy-like feature of approximately 80km wide located close to the Peninsula. The eddy-like feature is expressed as bright concentric bands that curve in an anticyclonic sense, contrasting with the rather dark image background. The concentric, bright lines suggest a possible convergence towards the eddy center. In addition to this meso-scale gyre, and located close to the main land, two other sub-mesoscale cyclonic eddies are manifested in the image. The smallest gyre, of approximately 20 km wide, is expressed as bright, curving lines. The other gyre, expressed as dark, meandering lines on a brighter background, is around 30km wide. We hypothesize that this anticyclonic eddy is manifested in the SAR image through changes in the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) stability. According to [11], this anticyclonic gyre is characterized by showing warmer waters in contrast with the temperature of its surrounding waters. Since SST typically varies over spatial scales smaller than those of the meteorological scales, and considering the fact that during winter winds over the GC blow from the northwest, bringing cool, dry desert air [2], it could be suggested and unstable MABL over the area influenced by the

anticyclonic gyre. An unstable MABL means that the air in contact with the gyre is warmer (less dense) than the air above and in consequence convective cells are formed. The buoyancy of the convective cells increase the mean surface wind stress, or friction velocity, producing and increase in the amplitude of the centimeter waves responsible for the radar backscatter, and ultimately a brighter signature over the gyre. In despite that the SAR image in Fig. 2 was acquired three years after the measurements analyzed by [5], the fact that the dimensions and geographical location of the anticyclonic eddy expressed in the image are in very good agreement with the dimensions and location of the eddy resolved by [5] strongly suggest that this anticyclonic circulation is a typical winter situation on the northern Gulf of California.

Fig.2 ERS-2 SAR image of the northern Gulf of California acquired during a descending track on 27 February 1999. The image has a 100m pixel resolution and cover an area of 100 by 300 km; its geographical position is noted on Fig. 1.

INTERNAL WAVE ACTIVITY Among the oceanographic phenomena expressed in SAR imagery internal waves (IWs) are one of the most widely observed. This is particularly true for the GC, were in the vicinity of Tiburon Island the combination of high tidal range and the complicated bottom topography produces significant internal wave activity. Fig. 3 shows one of the many examples of SAR images acquired over the GC that express IWs.

Fig. 3. ERS-2 SAR image of the northern Gulf of California acquired during a descending track on 13 May 1997. The image has a 100m pixel resolution and cover an area of 100 by 200 km; its geographical position is noted on Fig. 1.

There are expressed several IW packets in Fig. 3 that appear to propagate in at least three different directions. Some of these IW packets are oriented approximately parallel to the depth contours (not shown), that run more or less parallel to the mainland coastline. It is also interesting to note some interaction among packets propagating in different directions. Although internal waves are a common oceanographic phenomenon around Tiburon Island there are few direct observations. Furthermore, most of our knowledge of their characteristics has been provided by the analysis of SAR imagery. By examining SEASAT SAR imagery from the GC [12] found that IWs within the GC are mainly forced by tides, and that the number of observed packets reaches its maximum during spring tides and minimum during neap tides. From a comparison between the observed wave speed and the computed linear wave speed [12] concluded that the IWs are generally nonlinear, with amplitudes of the order of 50m. HIGH SPATIAL RESOLUTION WIND FIELD The meso-scale meteorology of the lower atmosphere over the GC is well known [2]. During summer the large-scale pressure field is dominated by a thermal low over the southwestern United States, and drives weak southwesterly winds that range from 2 to 5 m s-1, directed along the Gulfs axis. Air temperature and moisture content are rather constant, and topographic affects are absent. During winter the large-scale pressure field is dominated by the Great Basin High over the southwestern United States. In combination with the upper level synoptic activity this pressure field causes 3 to 6 days events of northwestern winds between 8 to 12 m s-1 also directed along the Gulfs axis, which are coherent over basin scales, and bring cool, dry desert air over the Gulf. In contrast with our knowledge of the meso-scale meteorology over the GC, high spatial resolution information of the wind field over the GC is very sparse, and restricted to a few specific coastal places. Now a days, a common alternative method to increase the density of wind information is to derive it from satellite based instruments, such as the scatterometer and the altimeter. However, the GC is less than 200 km and bordered by land, situation that higly contaminates the wind speed information derived from the altimeter or the scatterometer. Another possible source of wind data is the SAR [13; 14; 15]. Figure 4 shows a SAR image acquired over the GC during the winter season, 28 November 1996. The vectors represent the wind field derived from the image using the empirically derived scatterometer algorithm CMOD4 [16], as a reference the horizontal arrow in the top left corner correspond to a wind speed of 10 m s-1. The wind direction used to run the CMOD4 model was obtained from the orientation of the streaks (aligned from the upper left to the lower right) expressed in the image. It is interesting to note that in this particular case the average wind speed and wind direction derived from the SAR image is in very good agreement with the average wind speed and wind direction caused by the typical meso-scale meteorology of the GC during winter. CONCLUSIONS We conclude, from these few examples, that ERS-2 SAR images, integrated with the reduced number of insitu observations, can provide valuable, and new, information about some of the meteorological and oceanographic processes occurring in the GC, even when cloud cover, or the particular characteristics of the Gulf, prevents the use of other remote sensors such as infrared radiometers or visible imaging systems, or active sensors such as the scatterometer or the altimeter. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This work is a contribution to the ESA Projetct AO3-190, for which the SAR data were provided by ESA-ESRIN. Funding was provided by CONACyT and the U.A.B.C., Mxico, through contracts I-29866-T, 980232-P and 2-1-2013-003-4-4048.

Fig. 4 ERS-2 SAR image of the northern Gulf of California acquired during a descending track on 28 November 1996. The image has a 100m pixel resolution and cover an area of 100 by 200 km; its geographical position is noted on Fig. 1. The arrows represent the wind field derived from the image using the scatterometer CMOD4 model. The horizontal arrow in the top left corner corresponds to a wind speed of 10 ms-1

REFERENCES [1] G.I. Roden, Oceanographic and meteorological aspects of the Gulf of California, Pacific Science, Vol. 12(1), 2145, 1958 [2] A. Badan-Dangon, C.E. Dorman, M.A. Merrifield and C.D. Winant, The lower atmosphere over the Gulf of California, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 96, 16877-16896, 1991

[3] J.M. Hernndez-Ayn, M.S. Galindo-Bect, B.P. Flores-Bez and S. Alvarez-Borrego, Nutrient concentrations are high in the turbid waters of the Colorado River Delta. Estuarine, Coatal and Shelf Sci., Vol. 37, 593-602, 1993. [4] S. Alvarez-Borrego, J.A. Rivera, G. Gaxiola-Castro, M.J. Acosta-Ruiz and R.A. Schwarzlose, Nutrientes en el Golfo de California, Ciencias Marinas, Vol. 5, 53-71, 1978. [5] M.F. Lavn, R. Durazo, E. Palacios, M.L. Argote and L. Carrillo, Lagrangian observations of the circulation in the Northern Gulf of California, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 27(10), 2298-2305, 1997. [6] D.R. Lyzenga, Interaction of short surface and electromagnetic waves with ocean fronts, J. Gophys. Res., Vol. 96, 10765-10772, 1991. [7] R.C. Beal, V.N. Kudryavtsev, D.R. Thompson, , S.A.Grodsky, D.G.Tilley, V.A. Dulov and H.C. Graber, The influence of the marine atmospheric boundary layer on ERS-1 synthetic aperture radar imagery of the Gulf Stream, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 102, 5799-5814, 1997. [8] J.A. Johannessen, R.A. Shuchman, G. Digranes, D.R. Lyzenga, C. Wackerman, O.M. Johannessen and Vachon, P.W. Coastal ocean fronts and eddies imaged with ERS-1 synthetic aperture radar, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 102, 66516667, 1996. [9] N.A Bray, Thermohaline circulation in the Gulf of California, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 93, 4993-5020, 1988 [10] L.K. Lepley, S.P. Vonder Haar, J. R. Hendrickson and G. Calderon-Riveroll, Circulation in the northern Gulf of California from orbital photographs and ship investigations,: Ciencias Marinas, Vol. 2, 86-93, 1975. [11] L.Soto-Mardones, S.G. Marinone and A. Pars-Serra, Time and spatial variability of sea surface temperature in the Gulf of California, Ciencias Marinas, Vol. 25, 1-30, 1999. [12] L-L Fu and B. Holt, Internal waves in the Gulf of California: Observations from a sapaceborne radar, J. Gephys. Res., Vol. 89, 2053-2060, 1984. [13] T.W. Gerling, Structure of the surface wind field from the SEASAT SAR, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 91, 2308-2320, 1986. [14] C.C. Wackerman, C.L. Rufenach, R.A. Shuchman, J.A. Johannessen and K.L. Davison, Wind vector retrival using ERS-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery, IEEE Trans. On Geosciences and Remote Sensing, Vol. 34, 13431352, 1996. [15] J.W.M. Campbell and P.W. Vachon, Extracting ocean wind vectors from satellite SAR imagery, Backscatter, Vol. 8, 16-21, 1997. [16] A. Stoffelen and D.L.T. Anderson, wind retrival and ERS-1 scatterometer radar backscatter measurements, Advances in Space Research, Vol. 13, 53-60, 1993.