Articles | Volume 21, issue 1
31 Jan 2003
 | 31 Jan 2003

Comparison between XBT data and TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimetry in the Ligurian-Tyrrhenian area

S. Vignudelli, P. Cipollini, F. Reseghetti, G. Fusco, G. P. Gasparini, and G. M. R. Manzella

Abstract. From September 1999 to December 2000, eXpendable Bathy-Thermograph (XBT) profiles were collected along the Genova-Palermo shipping route in the framework of the Mediterranean Forecasting System Pilot Project (MFSPP). The route is virtually coincident with track 0044 of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimeter, crossing the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian basins in an approximate N–S direction. This allows a direct comparison between XBT and altimetry, whose findings are presented in this paper. XBT sections reveal the presence of the major features of the regional circulation, namely the eastern boundary of the Ligurian gyre, the Bonifacio gyre and the Modified Atlantic Water inflow along the Sicily coast. Twenty-two comparisons of steric heights derived from the XBT data set with concurrent realizations of single-pass altimetric heights are made. The overall correlation is around 0.55 with an RMS difference of less than 3 cm. In the Tyrrhenian Sea the spectra are remarkably similar in shape, but in general the altimetric heights contain more energy. This difference is explained in terms of oceanographic signals, which are captured with a different intensity by the satellite altimeter and XBTs, as well as computational errors. On scales larger than 100 km, the data sets are also significantly coherent, with increasing coherence values at longer wavelengths. The XBTs were dropped every 18–20 km along the track: as a consequence, the spacing scale was unable to resolve adequately the internal radius of deformation (< 20 km). Furthermore, few XBT drops were carried out in the Ligurian Sea, due to the limited north-south extent of this basin, so the comparison is problematic there. On the contrary, the major features observed in the XBT data in the Tyrrhenian Sea are also detected by TOPEX/Poseidon. The manuscript is completed by a discussion on how to integrate the two data sets, in order to extract additional information. In particular, the results emphasize their complementariety in providing a dynamically complete description of the observed structures.

Key words. Oceanography: general (descriptive and regional oceanography) Oceanography: physical (sea level variations; instruments and techniques)