Potential use of satellite data to infer the circulation dynamics in a marginal area of the Mediterranean Sea

G.M.R. Manzella, G.L. Borzelli, P. Cipollini, T.H. Guymer, H.M. Snaith, S. Vignudelli

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A multi-satellite study (AVHRR and Altimetry) has been carried out in a region of the Western Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Northern Tyrrhenian Basin to the Ligurian Sea, where the circulation and water masses have been extensively investigated using in situ oceanographic data collected during the last years. The in situ data have been analyzed for the description of the mean seasonal circulation in the study area. The water transport through the Corsica Channel (calculated from direct current measurements) exhibits significant seasonal and interannual changes. These are only in part related to the seasonal thermohaline changes in the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas, as can be deduced from the historical Temperature-Salinity data set used for the calculation of the steric contribution to the sea level. The main features of the surface thermal structures have been singled out by means of an EOF decomposition of about one year of AVHRR data. Altimeter data from ERS-1 (35-day cycle) and TOPEX/POSEIDON satellites along selected ground tracks crossing the survey area are used to estimate sea level differences between the two basins. Improvements to the altimeter data, including the use of better geophysical corrections and orbit computations are found to be very effective, but results from the two altimeters show some differences. However, a strong seasonal and interannual variability emerges from the altimeter-derived signal, with the maximum gradient of the sea level changing every year. A comparison with the climatological steric sea level gradient, calculated from hydrological data, demonstrates that the transport through the Corsican Channel is influenced by the thermohaline conditions of the two basins, as well as by meteorological forcings, that can significantly modify the baroclinic dynamics, especially during the Spring-Summer period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461 - 1464
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Space Agency, (Special Publication) ESA SP
Issue number414 PART 3
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Manzella, G. M. R., Borzelli, G. L., Cipollini, P., Guymer, T. H., Snaith, H. M., & Vignudelli, S. (1997). Potential use of satellite data to infer the circulation dynamics in a marginal area of the Mediterranean Sea. European Space Agency, (Special Publication) ESA SP, (414 PART 3), 1461 - 1464.