Ocean fronts can form where water masses collide. Defined by stark changes in temperature or salinity, these liquid boundaries can concentrate nutrients and enhance productivity. Living creatures seek out these oceanic features as habitats of choice for foraging, reproduction, recruitment, and migration.
Fronts and other mesoscale features such as eddies have been recognized as ecologically important by marine biologists – and by some in the fishing industry – for many years. In addition, fine-scale salinity gradients are useful for tracking of climate-relevant ocean motions such as tropical instability waves and the meandering of the Gulf Stream.
Until recently, the use of satellite data in everyday activities and long-term planning of marine fisheries has been limited. This situation has changed quite dramatically in the past decade: maps are now routinely generated by new computer algorithms that can detect fronts of various oceanic properties from satellite data.
Click on the images below to compare selected maps of sea surface salinity and salinity gradients produced from satellite data by Earth & Space Research (ESR). View all maps at ESR.
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.
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.
Belkin, I.M. (2021). View the full paper.
The goal of this website is to provide a systematic estimation and assessment of satellite SSS gradients over the global ocean, including spatiotemporal variability and regional analyses. Monthly data sets are provided for Aquarius, SMAP, SMAP RF, SMOS, and Argo. Daily data sets are available for Aquarius, SMAP, and SMOS.