Scientia Marina, Vol 77, No 1 (2013)

Recent improvements in mesoscale characterization of the western Mediterranean Sea: synergy between satellite altimetry and other observational approaches

Ananda Pascual
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Jérôme Bouffard
Aix-Marseille University, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO) , France

Simón Ruiz
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Bruno Buongiorno Nardelli
Istituto di Scienze dell’Atmosfera e del Clima - Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero , Italy

Enrique Vidal-Vijande
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Romain Escudier
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Juan Manuel Sayol
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Alejandro Orfila
Instituto Mediterraneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) , Spain


Satellite altimetry is a key component of the global observing system and plays a major role in the study of the mesoscale processes that drive most of the ocean circulation variability at middle and high latitudes. However, satellite altimetry alone provides only surface information at a limited spatio-temporal resolution. To address these limitations and to better describe the mesoscale three-dimensional variability, it is necessary to complement altimetry data with additional remote and in situ measurements. This study provides an update of the recent advances in the study of the mesoscale variability using a combination of altimetry and other independent observations, with an emphasis on the results obtained for the western Mediterranean Sea. The circulation in this area is complex because of the presence of multiple interacting scales, including basin-scale, sub-basin–scale and mesoscale structures. Thus, characterizing these processes requires high-resolution observations and multi-sensor approaches. Accordingly, multi-platform experiments and analyses have been designed and undertaken in the different sub-basins of the western Mediterranean Sea. These studies have demonstrated the advantages of synergetic approaches that use a combination of observation techniques and are able to resolve different spatio-temporal scales with the aim of better understanding mesoscale dynamics.


satellite altimetry; mesoscale variability; instruments and techniques; Mediterranean Sea

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