In past studies, Lagrangian stirring of surface tracer fields by altimetric surface geostrophic currents has been performed in different mid- to high-latitude regions, showing good results in reconstructing finer scale tracer patterns. Here, we explore the pertinence of the technique in the western equatorial Pacific and in the subtropical southwest Pacific. Initial conditions are derived from weekly gridded low-resolution temperature and salinity fields based on in situ hydrographic data. Validation of the reconstructed fine-scale surface tracer fields is performed using satellite AMSRE Sea Surface Temperature data and high-resolution ship thermosalinograph data. We test two kinds of Lagrangian advection. The standard one-way advection leads to an increased error as the advection time increases, due to the missing physics, such as air-sea fluxes or non-geostrophic dynamics. A second “backward-forward” advection technique is explored to reduce this bias in the tracer field, with improved results. In the subtropical southwest Pacific Ocean, the mesoscale temperature and salinity fronts are well represented by both Lagrangian advection techniques over a short 7- to 14-day advection time, including westward-propagating features not apparent in the initial fields. In the tropics, the results are less clear. The validation is hampered by the complex vertical stratification, and the lateral stirring technique is limited by the pertinence of using geostrophic surface current fields in the tropics. We suggest that the passive lateral stirring technique is efficient in regions with moderate to high mesoscale energy, where mesoscale surface tracer and surface height fields are correlated. In other regions, more complex dynamical processes may need to be included.
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M. Rogé and this study were financed by the French CNES-TOSCA programme. We gratefully acknowledge the help from Francesco D’Ovidio for the advection code and early assistance with the project. We are also indebted to Fernando Nino of the CTOH/LEGOS for assistance with the altimeter data and code, Thierry Delcroix and Gael Alory of the ORE-SSS at LEGOS for in situ salinity advice and to our anonymous reviewers who provided constructive and pertinent comments to improve our manuscript.
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