Can SMOS observe mesoscale eddies in the Algerian basin?

The circulation in the Algerian Basin is characterized by the presence of fresh-core eddies that  propagate along the coast or at distances between 100-200 km from the coast. Significant improvement in the  processing of the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) data have allowed to produce, for the first time, satellite Sea Surface Salinity (SSS) maps in the Mediterranean Sea that capture the signature of Algerian eddies. SMOS data can be used to track them for long periods of time, especially during winter. SMOS SSS maps are well correlated with in situ measurements although the former has a smaller dynamical range. Despite this limitation, SMOS SSS maps capture the key dynamics of Algerian eddies allowing to retrieve velocities from SSS with the correct sign of vorticity. These results have been recently published in Geophysical Research Letters (Isern-Fontanet et al. 2016).

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New Research: Ocean Currents at BEC

Ocean currents are a key element for the understanding of many oceanic and climatic phenomena and their knowledge is crucial for navigation and operational applications. Following the official broadening of its scope, BEC has extended its research activity towards the diagnosis of ocean surface currents from satellite observations. This new research line, led by Dr. Jordi Isern-Fontanet, is being funded through the ComFuturo program ( granted by the Fundación General del CSIC ( and through the GlobCurrent project ( funded by ESA.
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BEC L4 soil moisture product is now “all-weather”

Soil moisture at fine-scale (BEC L4 soil moisture product) can now be estimated under all-weather conditions. A delayed 5-year (2010-2015) data set covering the Iberian Peninsula is already available, and maps from 2015 onwards are provided in near real-time. This is BIG news! The L4 product is obtained by combining SMOS brightness temperatures with higher spatial resolution MODIS information into fine-scale soil moisture estimates [1,2]. In all previous releases, the presence of clouds masked the information from MODIS and therefore the fine-scale soil moisture. In the new L4 version 3.0 or “all-weather” product, we are including additional information in the downscaling algorithm, which allows fine-scale soil moisture mapping from space independently of cloud cover.

With the L4 all-weather product, we plan to extend the downscaling approach to other climatic regions. See Fig. 1 for an example of its application over Europe on July 1, 2014 (ascending passes). The version 2.0 is also provided (Fig. 2) to illustrate the differences between the two versions.

BEC L4 soil moisture map at 1 km spatial resolution, from 1/07/2014 (AM).

Fig.1. Soil moisture map at 1 km spatial resolution (with version 3.0 downscaling), from 1/07/2014 (AM).

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5+ years of fine-scale soil moisture estimates available!!

At Barcelona Expert Center (BEC) we are able to provide a Level 4 (L4) Surface Soil Moisture (SSM) product with 1 km spatial resolution that meets the requirements of land hydrology applications. To do so, we use a downscaling method that combines highly-accurate, but low-resolution, SMOS radiometric information with high resolution, but low sensitivity, visible-to-infrared imagery to SSM across spatial scales. A sample L4 SSM map from September 1, 2014 (6 AM) is shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1. SMOS-BEC L4 product from September 1, 2014 (6 AM).

This downscaling approach was first presented in [1] along with results of its application to a set of SMOS images acquired during the commissioning phase over the Oznet network, South-East Australia. Using reprocessed SMOS data obtained with the latest L1 and L2 processors, we have further developed and validated this technique; we now use SMOS polarimetric and multi-angular information in the downscaling method, which results in improved fine-scale soil moisture estimates [2].
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Barcelona World Race 2014-2015

The 2014-15 edition of the Barcelona World Race (BWR) has had an active ocean observation contribution that will provide new data about the ocean water dynamics and its environmental quality.

In addition to contribute to the build-up of the Argo system by deploying eight Argo profilers during January 2015, the One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton ship carried a Sea Bird SBE37-SI MicroCAT instrument to collect continuous (every minute) sea surface temperature and salinity measurements.

Photography by Mireia Perelló from

The One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. Photography by Mireia Perelló from

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New high-resolution L4 Soil Moisture products coming soon!

Since 2012, high-resolution soil moisture products are produced and distributed by BEC as research products. These soil moisture maps, at a spatial resolution of the order of 1 km, can be used to evaluate the soil water content for agriculture management purposes, and, especially important under conditions of extreme drought, to locate specific areas with high risk of fire by combining the soil moisture information with forecasts of air temperature and wind intensity. This was operationally done in the Barcelona area during the 2012 summer.

New products at other areas of the World are presently under development: High resolution soil moisture image, descending passes on April 3, 2013

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