Satellite estimates of wind speed and latent heat flux over the global oceans

Abderrahim Bentamy, Kristina B. Katsaros, Alberto M. Mestas-Nunez, William M. Drennan, Evan B. Forde, Hervé Roquet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Surface fluxes of momentum, freshwater, and energy across the air-sea interface determine oceanic circulation and its variability at all timescales. The goal of this paper is to estimate and examine some ocean surface flux variables using satellite measurements. The remotely sensed data come from the European Remote Sensing (ERS) satellite scatterometer on ERS-2, NASA scatterometer (NSCAT), and several Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) radiometers [Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I)] on board the satellites F10-F14. The sea surface temperature comes from daily analysis calculated from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) measurements. This study focuses on the 9-month period (October 1996-June 1997) of the NSCAT mission. To ensure high quality of the merged surface parameter fields, comparisons between different satellite estimates for the same variable have been performed, and bias corrections have been applied so that they are compatible with each other. The satellite flux fields are compared to in situ observations from buoys and ships globally and in different regions of the ocean. It is found that the root-mean-square (rms) difference with weekly averaged wind speeds is less than 2.5 m s-1 and the correlation coefficient is higher than 0.8. For weekly latent heat flux, the rms difference between satellite and buoys does not exceed 30 W m-2. The comparisons with weekly ship latent heat flux estimates gives an rms difference approaching 40 W m-2. Comparisons are also made between satellite fields and atmospheric analyses from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and reanalyses from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction-National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP-NCAR). The wind speeds and latent heat fluxes from these atmospheric analyses compare reasonably well with the satellite estimates. The main discrepancies are found in regions and seasons of large air-sea temperature difference and high wind speed, such as the Gulf Stream during the winter season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-656
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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