Method for Estimation of Ocean Current Velocity from Satellite Images

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Science  08 May 1981:
Vol. 212, Issue 4495, pp. 661-662
DOI: 10.1126/science.212.4495.661


Barotropic instability waves on a shear interface propagate at the average speed of the water on the two sides. Assuming the instability to be excited by tidal oscillations, the phase speed is the wavelength divided by the tidal period. If the water is at rest on one side of the shear layer the current speed on the other side can be calculated. This method, applied to the Gulf Stream beyond Cape Hatteras as seen in satellite images, gives estimates of current speed in general agreement with in situ observations.