Very high-frequency radar mapping of surface currents

Lynn K. Shay, Thomas M. Cook, Hartmut Peters, Arthur J. Mariano, Robert Weisberg, P. Edgar An, Alexander Soloviev, Mark Luther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


An ocean surface current radar (OSCR) in the very high frequency (VHF) mode was deployed in South Florida Ocean Measurement Center (SFOMC) during the summer of 1999. During this period, a 29-d continuous time series of vector surface currents was acquired starting on 9 July 1999 and ending 7 August 1999. Over a 20-min sample interval, the VHF radar mapped coastal ocean currents over a 7.5 km × 8 km domain with a horizontal resolution of 250 m at 700 grid points. A total of 2078 snapshots of the two-dimensional current vectors were acquired during this time series and of these samples, only 69 samples (3.3%) were missing from the time series. During this period, complex surface circulation patterns were observed that included coherent, submesoscale vortices with diameters of 2 to 3 km inshore of the Florida Current. Comparisons to subsurface measurements from moored and ship-board acoustic Doppler current profiles revealed regression slopes of close to unity with biases ranging from 4 to 8 cm s-1 between surface and subsurface measurements at 3 to 4 m beneath the surface. Correlation coefficients were 0.8 or above with phases of -10 to -20° suggestive of an anticylconic veering of current with depth relative to the surface current. The radar-derived surface current field provided spatial context for an observational network using mooring-, ship- and autonomous underwater vehicle-sensor packages that were deployed at the SFOMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-169
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002


  • ADCP
  • Coastal ocean circulation
  • Current profiles
  • Surface currents
  • VHF radar
  • Vortices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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