Highlights

Salinity Fronts

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"Fronts are (the) hot spots of marine life." - Igor M. Belkin

Oceanic fronts are narrow zones of enhanced horizontal gradients of water properties (temperature, salinity, nutrients, etc.) that separate broader areas of different water masses. Living creatures seek out such oceanic features as habitats of choice for foraging, reproduction, recruitment, and migration.

Visual observations from satellites and orbital manned stations corroborate such findings: large and mesoscale features such as fronts have been recognized as ecologically important by marine biologists for some time, while fishermen have long exploited their potential.

Despite this, their use in everyday activities and long-term planning of marine fisheries remained limited until recently due to a lack of computer software for efficient and effective processing of vast amounts of satellite data. This situation has changed quite dramatically over the last 10 years: maps are now routinely generated by new computer algorithms that can detect fronts of various oceanic properties in satellite images.

Click on the images below to compare maps of sea surface salinity and salinity gradients generated from satellite data by Earth & Space Research (ESR). View all maps at ESR.

Amazon River Plume
Amazon River Plume
Antarctic Ocean
Antarctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
East Tropical Pacific Ocean
East Tropical Pacific Ocean
Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
Subtropical North Atlantic Ocean
Subtropical North Atlantic Ocean
Tropical Pacific Ocean
Tropical Pacific Ocean

Featured Publications

Oceanic fronts shape marine ecosystems; therefore front mapping and characterization are among the most important aspects of physical oceanography. Here the authors report on the first global remote sensing survey of fronts in large marine ecosystems.

Reference

Belkin, I.M., Cornillon, P.C., and Sherman, K. (2009). View the full paper.

This paper provides a concise review of the remote sensing of ocean fronts in marine ecology and fisheries, with a particular focus on the most popular front detection algorithms and techniques.

Reference

Belkin, I.M. (2021). View the full paper.

Monthly global data files are provided by ESR for the following instruments: Aquarius, SMAP, SMAP RF, SMOS, and Argo. Daily global data sets, organized by year, are available for Aquarius, SMAP, and SMOS.

Reference

Earth and Space Research (2020). Download data files.

Strong salinity gradients (fronts) captured by satellite data are shown on regional to basin-wide scales in a series of maps produced by ESR.

Reference

Earth and Space Research (2020). View monthly and daily maps at ESR.