Correlation of oceanographic signatures appearing in synthetic aperture radar and interferometric synthetic aperture radar imagery with in situ measurements

G. O. Marmorino, D. R. Thompson, H. C. Graber, C. L. Trump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery collected over the continental shelf near Cape Hatteras, N. C., is analyzed in conjunction with shipboard hydrographic and current measurements. The SAR measurements were made over a 2-hour period on June 20, 1993, in both standard mapping mode and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (INSAR) mode from a NASA DC-8 aircraft as part of the High-Resolution Remote Sensing Experiment. In situ currents were measured using a surface-towed acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP). The measurements were made near the end of a period of Gulf Stream incursion onto the shelf as detected using a shore-based HF radar. Winds were southwesterly at 4-6 m s-1. Long, curvilinear SAR signatures, resembling earlier SEASAT observations made in the same area, are shown to correspond to narrow, shallow fronts separating water masses that increase in surface density with distance offshore. Across-front changes in surface current inferred from the INSAR data are consistent with 2-m-depth currents measured by the ADCP over scales of tens of meters. Thus frontal current gradients measured by INSAR reflect real changes in surface current and are not due to biases induced by changes in the surface-wave spectrum. This lends support to the detailed INSAR surface maps derived by Graber et al. [1996]. An east-west salinity front having the largest observed surface density and current gradient is corrugated on length scales up to the local Rossby radius of deformation and translates southward between successive images. In data from the longer radar wavelengths the salinity front appears as a dark band downwind of a bright signature, and this is interpreted as a region where Bragg-scale waves regenerate following their dissipation in the frontal region. In addition to the fronts the imagery shows closely spaced packets of southward propagating ocean internal waves occurring in the strongly stratified inshore water mass. This case study further serves to emphasize the potential of SAR imagery for study of a wide range of shelf processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18723-18736
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue numberC8
StatePublished - Aug 15 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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