Ocean surface currents from AVHRR imagery: Comparison with land-based HF radar measurements

Scott R. Chubb, Richard P. Mied, Colin Y. Shen, Wei Chen, Thomas E. Evans, Josh Kohut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We focus on inverting the surface temperature (or heat) equation to obtain the surface velocity field in the coastal ocean and compare the results with those from the maximum cross correlation (MCC) technique and with the in situ velocity fields measured by the Rutgers University Coastal Ocean Dynamics Radar (CODAR). When compared with CODAR fields, velocities from the heat equation and MCC have comparable accuracies, but the heat equation technique better resolves the finer scale flow features. We use the results to directly calculate the surface divergence and vorticity. This is possible because we convert the traditionally underdetermined heat inversion problem to an overdetermined one without constraining the velocity field with divergence, vorticity, or energy statements. Because no a priori assumptions are made about the vorticity, it can be calculated directly from the velocity results. The derived vorticity field has typical open-ocean magnitudes (∼5 × 10-5/s) and exhibits several structures (a warm core ring, Gulf Stream filament, and a diverging flow) consistent with the types of flows required to kinematically deform the sea surface temperature patterns into the observed configurations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4685983
Pages (from-to)3647-3660
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


  • Geophysical measurements
  • HF radar
  • Infrared (IR) imaging
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite applications
  • Sea coast
  • Sea surface

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