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Skin sea-surface temperatures from the first Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) are compared with coincident bulk temperatures from the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) moored buoy array in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The response of the skin-bulk sea-surface temperature difference (ΔT) to variations in wind speed and surface heat flux is examined. The use of remotely-sensed skin temperatures for this purpose is enabled by ATSR's unique design which permits the independent retrieval of ocean skin temperature to an accuracy of 0.3 K. For the four-year period considered (August 1991-August 1995), almost 6000 coincident skin and bulk sea surface temperature (SST) measurements were available; at night, the mean value of ΔT is -0.20 ± 0.46K, with a daytime mean value of +0.05 ± 0.51K. ΔT is found to depend on both net heat flux and local wind speed as predicted by the Saunders [1967] model and other formulations, and an estimate of the Saunders λ parameter is obtained.

Original publication




Journal article


Geophysical Research Letters

Publication Date





1171 - 1174