California Current Eddy Formation: Ship, Air, and Satellite Results

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Science  28 Jan 1977:
Vol. 195, Issue 4276, pp. 353-359
DOI: 10.1126/science.195.4276.353


Until recently, quantitative measurements of the circulation of the California Current were limited to hydrographic determinations

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of temperature and salinity. This information is now being augmented by satellite data. Clouds permitting, satellite scanner systems can locate major ocean frontal boundaries if they are associated with even quite weak horizontal sea-surface temperature gradients. The satellite data are most usefully interpreted in a region such as that encompassing the California Current, where the surface and main thermocline temperature distributions bear some relation to each other. In such a region, it is possible to make interpretations of circulation based on satellite-derived sea-surface temperature patterns. The correctness of these interpretations depends heavily on the availability of historical and present-day subsurface data, collected by conventional methods from ships and aircraft. Satellite infrared scanners, in addition to providing information on circulation with vastly increased spatial resolution, have the potential (with cooperative weather) for providing increased time resolution. These improvements in resolution have permitted us to see that much of the spatial variation in the California Current takes place along welldefined fronts and to observe the evolution of one particular meander.