Articles | Volume 12, issue 6
Research article
15 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 15 Nov 2016

Sub-basin-scale sea level budgets from satellite altimetry, Argo floats and satellite gravimetry: a case study in the North Atlantic Ocean

Marcel Kleinherenbrink, Riccardo Riva, and Yu Sun

Abstract. In this study, for the first time, an attempt is made to close the sea level budget on a sub-basin scale in terms of trend and amplitude of the annual cycle. We also compare the residual time series after removing the trend, the semiannual and the annual signals. To obtain errors for altimetry and Argo, full variance–covariance matrices are computed using correlation functions and their errors are fully propagated. For altimetry, we apply a geographically dependent intermission bias [Ablain et al.(2015)], which leads to differences in trends up to 0.8 mm yr−1. Since Argo float measurements are non-homogeneously spaced, steric sea levels are first objectively interpolated onto a grid before averaging. For the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE), gravity fields full variance–covariance matrices are used to propagate errors and statistically filter the gravity fields. We use four different filtered gravity field solutions and determine which post-processing strategy is best for budget closure. As a reference, the standard 96 degree Dense Decorrelation Kernel-5 (DDK5)-filtered Center for Space Research (CSR) solution is used to compute the mass component (MC). A comparison is made with two anisotropic Wiener-filtered CSR solutions up to degree and order 60 and 96 and a Wiener-filtered 90 degree ITSG solution. Budgets are computed for 10 polygons in the North Atlantic Ocean, defined in a way that the error on the trend of the MC plus steric sea level remains within 1 mm yr−1. Using the anisotropic Wiener filter on CSR gravity fields expanded up to spherical harmonic degree 96, it is possible to close the sea level budget in 9 of 10 sub-basins in terms of trend. Wiener-filtered Institute of Theoretical geodesy and Satellite Geodesy (ITSG) and the standard DDK5-filtered CSR solutions also close the trend budget if a glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) correction error of 10–20 % is applied; however, the performance of the DDK5-filtered solution strongly depends on the orientation of the polygon due to residual striping. In 7 of 10 sub-basins, the budget of the annual cycle is closed, using the DDK5-filtered CSR or the Wiener-filtered ITSG solutions. The Wiener-filtered 60 and 96 degree CSR solutions, in combination with Argo, lack amplitude and suffer from what appears to be hydrological leakage in the Amazon and Sahel regions. After reducing the trend, the semiannual and the annual signals, 24–53 % of the residual variance in altimetry-derived sea level time series is explained by the combination of Argo steric sea levels and the Wiener-filtered ITSG MC. Based on this, we believe that the best overall solution for the MC of the sub-basin-scale budgets is the Wiener-filtered ITSG gravity fields. The interannual variability is primarily a steric signal in the North Atlantic Ocean, so for this the choice of filter and gravity field solution is not really significant.

Short summary
Satellite altimetry measures changes in sea level, while satellite gravimetry measures mass changes, and one can infer steric sea level from Argo temperature and salinity profiles. For the first time, it is shown that in most cases the mass and steric components match the total sea level measured by altimetry on a sub-basin scale in terms of trend, annual amplitude and interannual variability. We also find that the choice of gravity field filter is essential to close the budget.