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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-129
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-129
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 24 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 24 Jan 2020

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This preprint was under review for the journal OS. A revision for further review has not been submitted.

Can seafloor voltage cables be used to study large-scale circulation? An investigation in the Pacific Ocean

Neesha R. Schnepf1,2, Manoj C. Nair1,2, Jakub Velímský3, and Natalie P. Thomas4 Neesha R. Schnepf et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Department of Geophysics, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic
  • 4Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Abstract. Marine electromagnetic (EM) signals largely depend on three factors: flow velocity, Earth's main magnetic field, and seawater's electrical conductivity (which depends on the local temperature and salinity). Because of this, there has been recent interest in using marine EM signals to monitor and study ocean circulation. Our study utilizes voltage data from retired seafloor telecommunication cables in the Pacific Ocean to examine whether such cables could be used to monitor circulation velocity or transport on large-oceanic scales. We process the cable data to isolate the seasonal and monthly variations, and evaluate the correlation between the processed data and numerical predictions of the electric field induced by ocean circulation. We find that the correlation between cable voltage data and numerical predictions strongly depends on both the strength and coherence of the velocities flowing across the cable, as well as the length of the cable. The cable within the Kuroshio Current had the highest correlation between data and predictions, whereas two of the cables in the Eastern Pacific gyre – a region with both low flow speeds and interfering velocity directions across the cable – did not have any clear correlation between data and predictions. Meanwhile, a third cable also located in the Eastern Pacific gyre had modest correlation between data and predictions – although the cable is very long and the speeds were low, it was located in a region of coherent flow velocity across the cable. While much improvement is needed before utilizing seafloor voltage cables to study and monitor oceanic circulation across wide regions, we believe that with additional work, the answer to our title's question may eventually be yes.

Neesha R. Schnepf et al.

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Neesha R. Schnepf et al.

Neesha R. Schnepf et al.

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Latest update: 09 Jul 2020
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Short summary
Marine electromagnetic (EM) signals largely depend on three factors: 1) the direction and speed of ocean flow, 2) the strength of Earth’s main magnetic field, and 3) seawater’s electrical conductivity (which depends on the local temperature and salinity). Because of this, there is interest in using marine EM signals to monitor and study ocean circulation. Our study investigates using voltage data from retired seafloor telecommunication cables in the Pacific Ocean to monitor large-scale flows.
Marine electromagnetic (EM) signals largely depend on three factors: 1) the direction and speed...
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