Trends and interactions of physical and bio-geo-chemical features in the Adriatic Sea as derived from satellite observations

Vittorio Barale, Christian Schiller, Ruggero Tacchi, Cecile Marechal
Science of the Total Environment 2005 December 15, 353 (1): 68-81
Time series of satellite data, generated by the AVHRR (1981-1999), CZCS (1979-1985) and SeaWiFS (1998-2002), have been used to assess trends and interactions of physical and bio-geo-chemical features in the Adriatic Sea. The images were processed to estimate Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and Chlorophyll-like Pigment Concentration (CPC). Long-term composites and climatologies were derived, using fixed geographical grids and projections. The AVHRR data show an apparent warming trend, when plotting the sequence of seasonal cycles (monthly mean SST, averaged over the whole basin) against time, due to a steady rise of summer values. Considering 3 regions (north, central and south), split into east and west sections, the northern Adriatic shows high SST fluctuations (possibly associated with the cycle of winter cooling and summer warming, typical of the relatively shallow sub-basin), while the southern Adriatic exhibits a lower variability (possibly influenced by the periodic water incoming from, and outflowing to the Ionian Sea). During summer, an east-west gradient prevails, while during winter only a general north-south gradient can be found. The SeaWiFS-derived CPC values, distributions and trends appear to be consistent with the historical CZCS record. Persistent differences in the quantitative assessment of CPC for coastal waters is due to the use of improved algorithms, less influenced by the presence of dissolved organics and suspended sediments in the water column, for the processing of SeaWiFS data. Apparent incongruities of the space and time patterns in the SeaWiFS record with respect to the reference climatology, obtained by CZCS more than a decade before, occur chiefly when considering the spring bloom in the southern Adriatic and the summer development of the north Adriatic front. The comparison of the long-term times series of satellite data shows that there is a high correlation between patterns in the thermal field and in the colour field. This suggests that different surface waters, identified by the SST index, are also traced by different ecological features, identified by the CPC index. Both indices also show a high correlation with the classical cyclonic circulation scheme of the Adriatic Sea, proposing once again an intimate relationship between the water dynamics and its bio-geo-chemistry.

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