Assessment of the upper-ocean observing system in the equatorial Pacific: The role of Argo in resolving intraseasonal to interannual variability*

Gasparin, F, Roemmich D, Gilson J, Cornuelle B.  2015.  Assessment of the upper-ocean observing system in the equatorial Pacific: The role of Argo in resolving intraseasonal to interannual variability*. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 32:1668-1688.

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1997-98 el-nino, circulation, depth, dynamic height, in-situ, interpolation, madden-julian oscillation, optimal, sea-surface, temperature, tropical pacific, westerly wind events


Using more than 10 years of Argo temperature and salinity profiles (2004-14), a new optimal interpolation (OI) of the upper ocean in the equatorial Pacific is presented. Following Roemmich and Gilson's procedures, which were formulated for describing monthly large-scale anomalies, here every 5 days anomaly fields are constructed with improvements in the OI spatial covariance function and by including the time domain. The comparison of Argo maps with independent observations, from the TAO/TRITON array, and with satellite sea surface height (SSH), demonstrates that Argo is able to represent around 70%-80% of the variance at intraseasonal time scales (periods of 20-100 days) and more than 90% of the variance for the seasonal-to-longer-term variability. The RMS difference between Argo and TAO/TRITON temperatures is lower than 1 degrees C and is around 1.5 cm when the Argo steric height is compared to SSH. This study also assesses the efficacy of different observing system components and combinations, such as SSH, TAO/TRITON, and Argo, for estimating subsurface temperature. Salinity investigations demonstrate its critical importance for density near the surface in the western Pacific. Objective error estimates from the OI are used to evaluate different sampling strategies, such as the recent deployment of 41 Argo floats along the Pacific equator. Argo's high spatial resolution compared with that of the moored array makes it better suited for studying spatial patterns of variability and propagation on intraseasonal and longer periods, but it is less well suited for studying variability on periods shorter than 20 days at point locations. This work is a step toward better utilization of existing datasets, including Argo, and toward redesigning the Tropical Pacific Observing System.