Air-sea interaction in the central Mediterranean Sea: assessment of reanalysis and satellite observations

TitleAir-sea interaction in the central Mediterranean Sea: assessment of reanalysis and satellite observations
Publication TypeArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsMarullo, S., Pitarch Jaime, Bellacicco M., Di Sarra Alcide, Meloni Daniela, Monteleone F., Sferlazzo Damiano Massimo, Artale V., and Santoleri Rosalia
JournalRemote Sensing
Date PublishedJan-06-2021
KeywordsAir sea interactions, Atmospheric thermodynamics, Central Mediterranean, Complete annual cycles, Heat flux, High frequency variabilities, High-quality measurements, Large dataset, Meteorological datasets, Meteorological variables, Observatories, Satellite observations, Satellites, Temperature measurement, Turbulence models, wind

Air-sea heat fluxes are essential climate variables, required for understanding air-sea interactions, local, regional and global climate, the hydrological cycle and atmospheric and oceanic circulation. In situ measurements of fluxes over the ocean are sparse and model reanalysis and satellite data can provide estimates at different scales. The accuracy of such estimates is therefore essential to obtain a reliable description of the occurring phenomena and changes. In this work, air- sea radiative fluxes derived from the SEVIRI sensor onboard the MSG satellite and from ERA5 reanalysis have been compared to direct high quality measurements performed over a complete annual cycle at the ENEA oceanographic observatory, near the island of Lampedusa in the Central Mediterranean Sea. Our analysis reveals that satellite derived products overestimate in situ direct observations of the downwelling short-wave (bias of 6.1 W/m2) and longwave (bias of 6.6 W/m2) irradiances. ERA5 reanalysis data show a negligible positive bias (+1.0 W/m2) for the shortwave irradiance and a large negative bias (-17 W/m2) for the longwave irradiance with respect to in situ observations. ERA5 meteorological variables, which are needed to calculate the air-sea heat flux using bulk formulae, have been compared with in situ measurements made at the oceanographic observatory. The two meteorological datasets show a very good agreement, with some underestimate of the wind speed by ERA5 for high wind conditions. We investigated the impact of different determinations of heat fluxes on the near surface sea temperature (1 m depth), as determined by calculations with a one-dimensional numerical model, the General Ocean Turbulence Model (GOTM). The sensitivity of the model to the different forcing was measured in terms of differences with respect to in situ temperature measurements made during the period under investigation. All simulations reproduced the true seasonal cycle and all high frequency variabilities. The best results on the overall seasonal cycle were obtained when using meteorological variables in the bulk formulae formulations used by the model itself. The derived overall annual net heat flux values were between +1.6 and 40.4 W/m2, depending on the used dataset. The large variability obtained with different datasets suggests that current determinations of the heat flux components and, in particular, of the longwave irradiance, need to be improved. The ENEA oceanographic observatory provides a complete, long-term, high resolution time series of high quality in situ observations. In the future, more similar sites worldwide will be needed for model and satellite validations and to improve the determination of the air-sea exchange and the understanding of related processes. © 2021 by the authors.


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Short TitleRemote Sensing