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High-Frequency Radar Mapping of Surface Currents Using WERA

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  • 1 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • | 2 Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Florida
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Abstract

A dual-station high-frequency Wellen Radar (WERA), transmitting at 16.045 MHz, was deployed along the west Florida shelf in phased array mode during the summer of 2003. A 33-day, continuous time series of radial and vector surface current fields was acquired starting on 23 August ending 25 September 2003. Over a 30-min sample interval, WERA mapped coastal ocean currents over an ≈40 km × 80 km footprint with a 1.2-km horizontal resolution. A total of 1628 snapshots of the vector surface currents was acquired, with only 70 samples (4.3%) missing from the vector time series. Comparisons to subsurface measurements from two moored acoustic Doppler current profilers revealed RMS differences of 1 to 5 cm s−1 for both radial and Cartesian current components. Regression analyses indicated slopes close to unity with small biases between surface and subsurface measurements at 4-m depth in the east–west (u) and north–south (υ) components, respectively. Vector correlation coefficients were 0.9 with complex phases of −3° and 5° at EC4 (20-m isobath) and NA2 (25-m isobath) moorings, respectively.

Complex surface circulation patterns were observed that included tidal and wind-driven currents over the west Florida shelf. Tidal current amplitudes were 4 to 5 cm s−1 for the diurnal and semidiurnal constituents. Vertical structure of these tidal currents indicated that the semidiurnal components were predominantly barotropic whereas diurnal tidal currents had more of a baroclinic component. Tidal currents were removed from the observed current time series and were compared to the 10-m adjusted winds at a surface mooring. Based on these time series comparisons, regression slopes were 0.02 to 0.03 in the east–west and north–south directions, respectively. During Tropical Storm Henri’s passage on 5 September 2003, cyclonically rotating surface winds forced surface velocities of more than 35 cm s−1 as Henri made landfall north of Tampa Bay, Florida. These results suggest that the WERA measured the surface velocity well under weak to tropical storm wind conditions.

* Current affiliation: Marine Physical Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

Corresponding author address: Lynn K. Shay, Meteorology and Physical Oceanography Division, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149-1098. Email: nshay@rsmas.miami.edu

Abstract

A dual-station high-frequency Wellen Radar (WERA), transmitting at 16.045 MHz, was deployed along the west Florida shelf in phased array mode during the summer of 2003. A 33-day, continuous time series of radial and vector surface current fields was acquired starting on 23 August ending 25 September 2003. Over a 30-min sample interval, WERA mapped coastal ocean currents over an ≈40 km × 80 km footprint with a 1.2-km horizontal resolution. A total of 1628 snapshots of the vector surface currents was acquired, with only 70 samples (4.3%) missing from the vector time series. Comparisons to subsurface measurements from two moored acoustic Doppler current profilers revealed RMS differences of 1 to 5 cm s−1 for both radial and Cartesian current components. Regression analyses indicated slopes close to unity with small biases between surface and subsurface measurements at 4-m depth in the east–west (u) and north–south (υ) components, respectively. Vector correlation coefficients were 0.9 with complex phases of −3° and 5° at EC4 (20-m isobath) and NA2 (25-m isobath) moorings, respectively.

Complex surface circulation patterns were observed that included tidal and wind-driven currents over the west Florida shelf. Tidal current amplitudes were 4 to 5 cm s−1 for the diurnal and semidiurnal constituents. Vertical structure of these tidal currents indicated that the semidiurnal components were predominantly barotropic whereas diurnal tidal currents had more of a baroclinic component. Tidal currents were removed from the observed current time series and were compared to the 10-m adjusted winds at a surface mooring. Based on these time series comparisons, regression slopes were 0.02 to 0.03 in the east–west and north–south directions, respectively. During Tropical Storm Henri’s passage on 5 September 2003, cyclonically rotating surface winds forced surface velocities of more than 35 cm s−1 as Henri made landfall north of Tampa Bay, Florida. These results suggest that the WERA measured the surface velocity well under weak to tropical storm wind conditions.

* Current affiliation: Marine Physical Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

Corresponding author address: Lynn K. Shay, Meteorology and Physical Oceanography Division, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149-1098. Email: nshay@rsmas.miami.edu

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