The structure of ocean-surface currents measured by Doppler Radar

David A. Chin, Supraja Chinthamreddy, Lynn K. Shay, Hans C. Graber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The spatial structure of surface currents collected using a Doppler Radar system off the Florida Keys has been investigated. Surface current vectors were acquired within a rectilinear grid containing 700 nodes, where each node was spaced 1 km apart. Principal component analyses indicate that at least 63% of the variance of the surface currents at the 700 nodal locations can be accounted for by only three principal components. The principal modes of circulation during two separate experiments were extracted and found to be basically the same, although the first two modes were reversed between the two experiments. Coherence spectra were determined for nodal spacings between 1.76 km and 10.48 km, and the results of these analyses indicate that over most of the experimental area, approximately 60% of the variance is coherent over separations of 10.48 km. Application of a synoptic time-series model [1] indicates that accurate prediction of the mean currents over each of the 65-h subrecord lengths was the dominant factor in controlling model performance, and that on the order of 10% error could be expected in using the time-series model to predict the low-frequence fluctuations. This indicates that time-series modeling of surface currents may be feasible and useful in estimating the long-term mixing characteristics of contaminants transported in the surface layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-167
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997


  • Coherence
  • Doppler radar
  • Mixing
  • Principal components
  • Spectral analysis
  • Surface currents
  • Time-series models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering


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