Inferring Florida Current Volume Transport From Satellite Altimetry

Denis L. Volkov, Ricardo Domingues, Christopher S. Meinen, Rigoberto Garcia, Molly Baringer, Gustavo Goni, Ryan H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The nearly four-decades-long quasi-continuous daily measurements of the Florida Current (FC) volume transport with a submarine cable at about 27°N represents the longest climate record of a boundary current in existence. Given the extremely high utility of this time series for monitoring the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, as well as for improving understanding and prediction of the regional weather, climate phenomena, coastal sea-level, and ecosystem dynamics, efforts are underway to establish a suitable backup observing system in case the cable becomes inoperable in the future. This study explores the utility of along-track satellite altimetry measurements since 1993 as a potential cable backup by establishing the relationship between the cross-stream sea surface height gradients and the FC volume transport derived from cable measurements and ship sections. We find that despite the lower temporal resolution, satellite altimetry can indeed serve as a decent but limited backup observing system. The FC transport inferred from satellite altimetry captures about 60% of the variability observed in the concurrent cable estimates, and the estimated error bars for the altimetry-derived transport are larger than those of the cable transport (2.1 Sv vs. 1.5 Sv). We nevertheless demonstrate that satellite altimetry reproduces the seasonal, intra-seasonal, and inter-annual variability of the FC transport fairly well, as well as large transport anomalies during extreme weather events, such as tropical storms and hurricanes. The altimetry-derived transport can be provided in near-real time and serve the need to fill in data gaps in the cable record and assess its quality over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JC016763
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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