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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics








A unique set of coutemporaneous satellite-tracked drifters and five-day composite Advanced Very High Resolution Radionmeter (AVHRR) satellite imagery of the North Atlantic has been analyzed to examine the surface flow structure of the Gulf Stream. The study region was divided into two sections, greater than 37 degrees N and less than 37 degrees N, in order to answer the question of geographic variability. Fractal and spectral analyses methods were applied to the data. Fractal analysis of the Lagrangian trajectories showed a fractal dimension of 1.21 +/- 0.02 with a scaling range of 83 - 343 km. The fractal dimension of the temperature fronts of the composite imagery is similar for the two regions with D = 1.11 +/- 0.01 over a scaling range of 4 - 44 km. Spectral analysis also reports a fairly consistent value for the spectral slope and its scaling range. Therefore, we conclude there is no geographic variability in the data set.

A suitable scaling range for this contemporaneous data set is 80 - 200 km which is consistent with the expected physical conditions in the region. Finally, we address the idea of using five-day composite imagery to infer the surface flow of the Gulf Stream. Close analyses of the composite thermal fronts and the Lagrangian drifter trajectories show that the former is not a good indicator of the latter.

Original Publication Citation

Mullen, C.P., & Kirwan, A.D. (1994). Surface flow structure of the Gulf Stream from composite imagery and satellite-tracked drifters. Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics, 1(1), 64-76.


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