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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 24, 613-643, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-24-613-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review article
17 Oct 2017
Remote sensing of ocean surface currents: a review of what is being observed and what is being assimilated
Jordi Isern-Fontanet1,2, Joaquim Ballabrera-Poy1, Antonio Turiel1,2, and Emilio García-Ladona1 1Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2Barcelona Expert Center in Remote Sensing (CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Abstract. Ocean currents play a key role in Earth's climate – they impact almost any process taking place in the ocean and are of major importance for navigation and human activities at sea. Nevertheless, their observation and forecasting are still difficult. First, no observing system is able to provide direct measurements of global ocean currents on synoptic scales. Consequently, it has been necessary to use sea surface height and sea surface temperature measurements and refer to dynamical frameworks to derive the velocity field. Second, the assimilation of the velocity field into numerical models of ocean circulation is difficult mainly due to lack of data. Recent experiments that assimilate coastal-based radar data have shown that ocean currents will contribute to increasing the forecast skill of surface currents, but require application in multidata assimilation approaches to better identify the thermohaline structure of the ocean. In this paper we review the current knowledge in these fields and provide a global and systematic view of the technologies to retrieve ocean velocities in the upper ocean and the available approaches to assimilate this information into ocean models.

Citation: Isern-Fontanet, J., Ballabrera-Poy, J., Turiel, A., and García-Ladona, E.: Remote sensing of ocean surface currents: a review of what is being observed and what is being assimilated, Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 24, 613-643, https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-24-613-2017, 2017.
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Short summary
Ocean currents play a key role in Earth’s climate – they are of major importance for navigation and human activities at sea and impact almost all processes that take place in the ocean. Nevertheless, their observation and forecasting are still difficult. Here, we review the main techniques used to derive surface currents from satellite measurements and the existing approaches to assimilate this information into ocean models.
Ocean currents play a key role in Earth’s climate – they are of major importance for...
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