Prior efforts have produced a sea surface temperature (SST) optimum interpolation (OI) analysis that is widely used, especially for climate purposes. The analysis uses in situ (ship and buoy) and infrared (IR) satellite data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). Beginning in December 1997, “microwave” SSTs became available from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite Microwave Imager (TMI). Microwave SSTs have a significant coverage advantage over “IR” SSTs because microwave SSTs can be retrieved in cloud-covered regions while IR SSTs cannot. However, microwave SSTs are at a much lower spatial resolution than the IR SSTs.
In this study, the impact of SSTs derived from TMI was tested from the perspective of the OI analysis. Six different versions of the OI were produced weekly from 10 December 1997 to 1 January 2003 using different combinations of AVHRR and TMI data and including versions with and without a bias correction of the satellite data. To make the results more objective, 20% of the buoys were randomly selected and the SSTs from these buoys were withheld from the OI for independent verification.
The results of the intercomparisons show that both AVHRR and TMI data have biases that must be corrected for climate studies. These biases change with time as physical properties of the atmosphere change and as satellite instruments and the orbits of the satellites, themselves, change. It is critical to monitor differences between satellite and other products to quickly diagnose any of these changes.
For the OI analyses with bias correction, it is difficult using the withheld buoys to clearly demonstrate that there is a significant advantage in adding TMI data. The advantage of TMI data is clearly shown in the OI analyses without bias correction. Because IR and microwave satellite algorithms are affected by different sources of error, biases may tend to cancel when both TMI and AVHRR data are used in the OI. Bias corrections cannot be made in regions where there are no in situ data. In these regions, the results of the analyses without bias corrections apply. Because there are areas of the ocean with limited in situ data and restricted AVHRR coverage due to cloud cover, the use of both TMI and AVHRR should improve the accuracy of the analysis in these regions. In addition, the use of more than one satellite product is helpful in diagnosing problems in these products.
Corresponding author address: Dr. Richard W. Reynolds, NOAA/ National Climatic Data Center, 151 Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801. Email: Richard.W.Reynolds@noaa.gov