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Journal Article

On the bulk-skin temperature difference and its impact on satellite remote sensing of sea surface temperature


Grassl,  Hartmut
MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Schluessel, P., Emery, W., Grassl, H., & Mammen, T. (1990). On the bulk-skin temperature difference and its impact on satellite remote sensing of sea surface temperature. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 95, 13341-13356. doi:10.1029/JC095iC08p13341.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-BC37-B
Satellite infrared sensors only observe the temperature of the skin of the ocean rather than the bulk sea surface temperature (SST) traditionally measured from ships and buoys. In order to examine the differences and similarities between skin and bulk temperatures, radiometric measurements of skin temperature were made in the North Atlantic Ocean from a research vessel along with coincident measurements of subsurface bulk temperatures, radiative fluxes, and meteorological variables. Over the entire 6-week data set the bulk-skin temperature differences (AT) range between -1.0 and 1.0 K with mean differences of 0.1 to 0.2 K depending on wind and surface heat flux conditions. The bulk-skin temperature difference varied between day and night (mean differences 0.11 and 0.30 K, respectively) as well as with different cloud conditions, which can mask the horizontal variability of SST in regions of weak horizontal temperature gradients. A coherency analysis reveals strong correlations between skin and bulk temperatures at longer length scales in regions with relatively weak horizontal temperature gradients. The skin-bulk temperature difference is pararneterized in terms of heat and momentum fluxes (or their related variables) with a resulting accuracy of 0.11 K and 0.17 K for night and daytime. A recommendation is made to calibrate satellite derived SST's during night with buoy measurements and the additional aid of meteorological variables to properly handle AT variations.