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Peter Cornillon

Abstract

It is commonly held belief that meandering of the Gulf Stream increases dramatically downstream of the New England Seamount chain. In fact this appears not to be the case. The envelope of Gulf Stream northern edges derived from 30 months of satellite data remains constant from 65° to 58°W. Only the mean of the integrated path length normalized by the mean path length appears to increase downstream of the seamounts, but at very nearly the same rate as upstream of them.

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Vladimir Osychny and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

This study uses satellite observations of sea surface height (SSH) to detect westward-propagating anomalies, presumably baroclinic Rossby waves, in the North Atlantic and to estimate their period, wavelength, amplitude, and phase speed. Detection involved a nonlinear fit of the theoretical dispersion relation for Rossby waves to the time–longitude spectrum at a given latitude. Estimates of period, wavelength, and phase speed resulted directly from the detection process. Based on these, a filter was designed and applied to extract the Rossby wave signal from the data. This allowed a mapping of the spatial variability of the Rossby wave amplitude for the North Atlantic. Results showed the familiar larger speed of observed Rossby waves relative to that expected from theory, with the largest differences occurring at shorter periods. The data also show that the dominant Rossby waves, those with periods that are less than annual, propagated with almost uniform speed in the western part of the North Atlantic between 30° and 40°N. In agreement with previous studies, the amplitude of the Rossby wave field was higher in the western part of the North Atlantic than in the eastern part. This is often attributed to the influence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. By contrast, this study, through an analysis of the wave spatial structure, suggests that the source of the baroclinic Rossby waves at midlatitudes in the western North Atlantic is located southeast of the Grand Banks where the Gulf Stream and the deep western boundary current interact with the Newfoundland Ridge. The spatial structure of the waves in the eastern North Atlantic is consistent with the formation of these waves along the basin's eastern boundary.

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Tong Lee and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

Positions of the Gulf Stream path from 74° to 45°W were obtained from satellite infrared images for the period of April 1982–December 1989. The propagation of meanders between 74° and 70°W was studied through spectral analysis in wavenumber-frequency space, empirical orthogonal function analysis in time and frequency domains, and direct measurements of individual meander properties. Progressive meanders are found to have a broad range of periods from days to years, and wavelengths from about 200 to 1100 km. Good agreement is found between the satellite and Inverted Echo Sounder data for short-period (<80 days) progressive propagation. Retrogressive meanders with wavelengths longer than 1100 km are found to coexist with progressive ones at periods longer than 4 months. The empirical dispersion relation is in qualitative agreement with the linear prediction of a recent equivalent-barotropic,β-plane thin-jet model, the comparison also suggests that topographic β may need to be considered in order to account for the magnitudes of observed retrogressive phase speeds. Amplitude dependence of propagation is observed. with the phase speed decreasing as the amplitude increases. Standing meanders are observed at periods when both progressive and retrogressive propagation are present; their wavelengths fall between those of oppositely traveling meanders. These standing meanders are responsible for the standing wave pattern of the path envelope between Cape Hatteras and 69°W It is argued that they are formed by near-stationary meanders of a similar wavelength but different amplitudes propagating in opposite directions as a result of the combined amplitude-dependent and β effect.

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Peter Cornillon and Randolph Watts

Abstract

The northern edge of the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina was located in 155 AVHRR-derived maps of sea surface temperature (SST) using five different methods. One method was subjective location of the northern edge by an analyst; the other four involved objective location of the edge by computer using various statistics of the SST field. Specifically, the quantities considered were: maximum SST gradient (calculated over a 3 × 3 pixel box), maximum SST (on a pixel-by-pixel basis), maximum variance (calculated over a 7 × 7 pixel box), and change in the skewness of the SST distribution (calculated over a 5 × 5 pixel box). The resulting locations were compared with the location of the 15°C isotherm at 200 m (T 15) determined from inverted echo sounders (IESs) moored on the sea floor. The best method, which yielded the smallest rms difference from the IES-derived T 15, was the subjective one; the surface front was located 9.0 km shoreward of T 15 with a rms difference of 14.3 km. The best objective technique used the skew of the SST distribution: Each pixel in the image was replaced by the skew of the distribution of the twenty-five SST values obtained from a 5 × 5 pixel square centered on that pixel. The skew changes sign when a step in the SST data, such as the Gulf Stream northern edge, is crossed. The Gulf Stream northern edge located in the skew images was found to be 14.0 km shoreward of T 15 in the mean with a rms difference of 18.2 km. In general, the more spatial information used, the better the estimate.

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Tong Lee and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

Analysis of the Gulf Stream path between 75° and 60°W indicates that the spectral signature of propagating and standing meanders is qualitatively similar to that observed for the upstream region 74°–70°W. Progressive, retrogressive,and standing meanders coexist at periods of several months and longer.

The amplitude-dependent dispersion relation obtained for the region 75°–45°W demonstrates the decrease of phase speed as the amplitude increases; the dependence of phase speed on amplitude is found to be stronger than that on wavelength. The average phase speed decreases with downstream distance primarily due to the downstream increase of meander amplitude. Consequently, a relation between phase speed and wavelength for the region west of 70°W, averaged over all amplitudes, is not uniformly valid for a larger domain. Furthermore, downstream propagating meander troughs are steeper and travel more slowly than meander crests. The average stationary wavelength, 700–800 km for 75°–60°W, is much shorter than that predicted based on an equivalent barotropic,,β-plane thin-jet model.

The most energetic meanders have a period of 46 days and a wavelength of 427 km. The period of the fastest-growing meanders is approximately 40 days, close to the period of the most energetic meanders. The wavelength of the fastest-growing meanders, about 350 km, is shorter than the wavelength of the most energetic meanders.

The New England Seamounts do not have a significant effect on the most energetic meanders. However, meanders having periods either shorter or longer than the period of the most energetic meanders are affected by the seamounts. For long-period meanders, their lateral excursions seem to be constrained by the seamounts.

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Daniel L. Codiga and Peter Cornillon

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Interpretation of sea surface height anomaly (SSHA) and wind forcing of first baroclinic mode Rossby waves is considered using linear inviscid long-wave dynamics for both the standard and surface-intensified vertical mode in a continuously stratified rest-state ocean. The ratio between SSHA variance and vertically integrated energy of waves is proportional to 1) a dimensionless ratio characterizing the surface intensification of the pressure eigenfunction, 2) the squared internal gravity wave speed, and 3) the inverse of the water depth. Geographic variations in stratification and bathymetry can therefore cause geographically varying SSHA variance even for spatially uniform wave energy. The ratio between SSHA variance and wave energy across the North Atlantic shows important spatial variations based on eigensolutions for the standard vertical mode determined numerically using climatological hydrography. The surface-intensified mode result is similar, though the ratio is generally slightly larger and less sensitive to depth variations. Results are applied to the propagating annual-frequency portion of TOPEX altimeter SSHA in the North Atlantic. SSHA variance at 35° in the western half of the basin increases by ∼63% over that in the east, but the associated change in inferred first-mode baroclinic Rossby wave energy is a substantially smaller increase of ∼26% (∼34%) for the standard (surface intensified) mode. This is mainly associated with increases to vertical mode surface intensification and squared internal gravity wave speed in the west due to stronger stratification above the pycnocline. The wind-forced wave equation for SSHA has a dimensionless coefficient of Ekman pumping that is proportional to the ratio between SSHA variance and wave energy, implying similar geographic variation in efficiency of wind excitation of Rossby wave SSHA.

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Michael A. Alfultis and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

The North Atlantic Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) layer was identified based on its temperature, large thickness, and small temperature gradient. Comparisons between this method and identifying the STMW layer using a density-based (i.e., potential vorticity) criteria indicate that this method successfully identifies the STMW layer as the remnant of the previous winter's convective mixing. By using this temperature-based characterization of the STMW layer, this method was able to develop a climatology using the large number of expendable bathythermographs (XBTs) deployed between 1968 and 1988, and contained in the World Ocean Atlas 1994 historical hydrographic database. From this climatology, the STMW layer that is the remnant of the previous winter's convective activity is typically found between 175 and 450 m, has an average temperature near 18°C, and has a mean temperature gradient of 0.5°C (100 m)−1. Comparisons of the STMW temperature, thickness, and temperature gradient characteristics in this climatology agree with other observations of the North Atlantic STMW layer.

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Kenneth S. Casey and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to present a satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) climatology based on Pathfinder Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data and to evaluate it and several other climatologies for their usefulness in the determination of SST trends. The method of evaluation uses two long-term observational collections of in situ SST measurements: the 1994 World Ocean Atlas (WOA94) and the Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set (COADS). Each of the SST climatologies being evaluated is subtracted from each raw SST observation in WOA94 and COADS to produce several separate long-term anomaly datasets. The anomaly dataset with the smallest standard deviation is assumed to identify the climatology best able to represent the spatial and seasonal SST variability and therefore be most capable of reducing the uncertainty in SST trend determinations.

The satellite SST climatology was created at a resolution of 9.28 km using both day and night satellite fields generated with the version 4 AVHRR Pathfinder algorithm and cloud-masking procedures, plus an erosion filter that provides additional cloud masking in the vicinity of cloud edges. Using the statistical comparison method, the performance of this “Pathfinder + erosion” climatology is compared with the performances of the WOA94 1° in situ climatology, the Reynolds satellite and in situ blended 1° analysis, version 2.2 of the blended 1° Global Sea-Ice and Sea Surface Temperature (GISST) climatology, and the in situ 5° Global Ocean Surface Temperature Atlas (GOSTA).

The standard deviation of the anomalies produced using the raw WOA94 in situ observations and the reference SST climatologies indicate that the 9.28-km Pathfinder + erosion climatology is more representative of spatial and seasonal SST variability than the traditional in situ and blended SST climatologies. For the anomalies created from the raw COADS observations, the Pathfinder + erosion climatology is also found to minimize variance more than the other climatologies. In both cases, the 5° GOSTA climatology exhibits the largest anomaly standard deviations.

Regional characteristics of the climatologies are also examined by binning the anomalies by climatological temperature classes and latitudinal bands. Generally, the Pathfinder + erosion climatology yields lower anomaly variances in the mid- and high latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere, but larger variances than the 1° climatologies in the warm, Northern Hemisphere low-latitude regions.

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Jean-François Cayula and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

This paper presents an approach based on the analysis of an image sequence to detect temperature fronts in a sea surface temperature image. The multi-image edge detection algorithm starts by applying a single-image edge detection algorithm to the sequence of images under study. Next, fronts or portions of fronts, which were detected in neighboring images by the single-image algorithm and which match features in the current image, are identified as persistent. The coordinates of these persistent fronts are then passed to the single-image edge detection algorithm so that additional fronts can be detected. The performance of the multi-image edge detection algorithm, of various single-image algorithms, and of a human expert are evaluated on a set of 98 images. For that purpose, the location of the fronts obtained by applying various methods to the SST images is compared to the in situ measures of the Gulf Stream position. With respect to both quality and the number of detected edges, the multi-image edge detection algorithm is the only automated method that achieves results comparable to those obtained by a human expert.

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Kenneth S. Casey and Peter Cornillon

Abstract

Individual sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies are calculated using a satellite-based climatology and observations from the World Ocean Atlas 1994 (WOA94) and the Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) to characterize global and regional changes in ocean surface temperature since 1942. For each of these datasets, anomaly trends are computed using a new method that groups individual anomalies into climatological temperature classes. These temperature class anomaly trends are compared with trends estimated using a technique representative of previous studies based on 5° latitude–longitude bins.

Global linear trends in the data-rich period between 1960 and 1990 calculated from the WOA94 data are found to be 0.14° ± 0.04°C decade−1 for the temperature class approach and 0.13° ± 0.04°C decade−1 for the 5° bin approach. The corresponding results for the COADS data are 0.10° ± 0.03°C and 0.09° ± 0.03°C decade−1. These trends are not statistically different at the 95% confidence level. Additionally, they agree closely with both SST and land–air temperature trends estimated from results reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The similarity between the COADS trends and the trends calculated from the WOA94 dataset provides confirmation of previous SST trend studies, which are based almost exclusively on volunteer observing ship datasets like COADS.

Regional linear trends reveal a nonuniformity in the SST rates between 1945–70 and 1970–95. Intensified warming during the later period is observed in the eastern equatorial Pacific, the North Atlantic subtropical convergence, and in the vicinity of the Kuroshio extension. Also, despite close agreement globally, localized differences between COADS and WOA94 trends are observed.

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