Global monitoring of Sea Surface Salinity with Aquarius

Source: NTRS


Aquarius is a microwave remote sensing system designed to obtain global maps of the surface salinity field of the oceans from space. It will be flown on the Aquarius/SAC-D mission, a partnership between the USA (NASA) and Argentina (CONAE) with launch scheduled for late in 2008. The objective of Aquarius is to monitor the seasonal and interannual variation of the large scale features of the surface salinity field in the open ocean. This will provide data to address scientific questions associated with ocean circulation and its impact on climate. For example, salinity is needed to understand the large scale thermohaline circulation, driven by buoyancy, which moves large masses of water and heat around the globe. Of the two variables that determine buoyancy (salinity and temperature), temperature is already being monitored. Salinity is the missing variable needed to understand this circulation. Salinity also has an important role in energy exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, for example in the development of fresh water lenses (buoyant water that forms stable layers and insulates water below from the atmosphere) which alter the air-sea coupling. Aquarius is a combination radiometer and scatterometer (radar) operating at L-band (1.413 GHz for the radiometer and 1.26 GHz for the scatterometer). The primary instrument,for measuring salinity is the radiometer which is able to detect salinity because of the modulation salinity produces on the thermal emission from sea water. This change is detectable at the long wavelength end of the microwave spectrum. The scatterometer will provide a correction for surface roughness (waves) which is one of the greatest unknowns in the retrieval. The sensor will be in a sun-synchronous orbit at about 650 km with equatorial crossings of 6am/6pm. The antenna for these two instruments is a 3 meter offset fed reflector with three feeds arranged in pushbroom fashion looking away from the sun toward the shadow side of the orbit to minimize sunglint. The mission goal is to produce maps of the salinity field globally once each month with an accuracy of 0.2 psu and a spatial resolution of 100 km. This will be adequate to address l&ge scale features of the salinity field of the open ocean. The temporal resolution is sufficient to address seasonal changes and a three year mission is planned to-collect sufficient data to look for interannual variation. Aquarius is being developed by NASA as part of the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program. The SAC-D mission is being developed by CONAE and will include the space craft and several additional instruments, including visible and infrared cameras and a microwave radiometer to monitor rain and wind velocity over the oceans, and sea ice.

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