Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Special issue:
26 Oct 2009
 | 26 Oct 2009

The multifractal structure of satellite sea surface temperature maps can be used to obtain global maps of streamlines

A. Turiel, V. Nieves, E. Garcia-Ladona, J. Font, M.-H. Rio, and G. Larnicol

Abstract. Nowadays Earth observation satellites provide information about many relevant variables of the ocean-climate system, such as temperature, moisture, aerosols, etc. However, to retrieve the velocity field, which is the most relevant dynamical variable, is still a technological challenge, specially in the case of oceans. New processing techniques, emerged from the theory of turbulent flows, have come to assist us in this task. In this paper, we show that multifractal techniques applied to new Sea Surface Temperature satellite products opens the way to build maps of ocean currents with unprecedented accuracy. With the application of singularity analysis, we show that global ocean circulation patterns can be retrieved in a daily basis. We compare these results with high-quality altimetry-derived geostrophic velocities, finding a quite good correspondence of the observed patterns both qualitatively and quantitatively; and this is done for the first time on a global basis, even for less active areas. The implications of this findings from the perspective both of theory and of operational applications are discussed.

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