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Optimization of Sea Surface Current Retrieval Using a Maximum Cross-Correlation Technique on Modeled Sea Surface Temperature

Journal article
Authors Céline Heuzé
Gisela Carvajal
Leif E.B. Eriksson
Published in Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Volume 34
Pages 2245–2255
ISSN 0739-0572
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 2245–2255
Language en
Keywords Algorithms; In situ oceanic observations; Remote sensing; Sensitivity studies; Ocean models
Subject categories Oceanography, Remote Sensing


Using sea surface temperature from satellite images to retrieve sea surface currents is not a new idea, but so far its operational near-real-time implementation has not been possible. Validation studies are too region specific or uncertain, sometimes because of the satellite images themselves. Moreover, the sensitivity of the most common retrieval method, the maximum cross correlation, to the parameters that have to be set is unknown. Using model outputs instead of satellite images, biases induced by this method are assessed here, for four different seas of western Europe, and the best of nine settings and eight temporal resolutions are determined. The regions with strong currents return the most accurate results when tracking a 20-km pattern between two images separated by 6–9 h. The regions with weak currents favor a smaller pattern and a shorter time interval, although their main problem is not inaccurate results but missing results: where the velocity is too low to be picked by the retrieval. The results are not impaired by the restrictions imposed by ocean surface current dynamics and available satellite technology, indicating that automated sea surface current retrieval from sea surface temperature images is feasible, for pollution confinement, search and rescue, and even for more energy-efficient and comfortable ship navigation.

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