Mesoscale structures viewed by SAR and AVHRR near the Canary islands
Keywords:SAR, lee regions, upwelling filament, convergence, wind shear, CMOD4
Comparison of Synthetic Aperture Radar and Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometry images of sea surface backscatter and temperature during the peak of the summer Trade winds reveals many aspects of the regional oceanography of the Canary Islands. A strong correspondence occurs between the SAR and AVHRR signals. The generally uniform wind field is perturbed as it flows past the islands producing regions of calm immediately downstream. These are bounded by lines of strong horizontal wind shear that coincide with temperature fronts between warmer lee waters and the cooler surrounding ocean. Weaker winds prevail up to 50 km downstream while enhanced wind speed on the boundaries of the lee can extend more than 150 km. Lee waves are excited in the atmospheric inversion layer where the wind passes over abrupt island topography. Quantitative estimates of wind speed made with the CMOD4 algorithm are unreliable in the downstream region because wind direction is variable and unknown and because spatial gradients in air-sea temperature difference affect atmospheric boundary layer stability. A large anticyclone south of Tenerife strongly influenced the estimated wind speed probably because higher ocean temperatures in its centre caused atmospheric instability and increased radar backscatter. The temperature fronts marking boundaries of the upwelling filament and strong eddies observed in AVHRR appear as lines of current shear in the SAR images.
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