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Observation of hurricane-generated ocean swell refraction at the Gulf Stream north wall with the RADARSAT-1 synthetic aperture radar

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7 Author(s)
Xiaofeng Li ; NOAA/NESDIS, Camp Springs, MD, USA ; W. G. Pichel ; Mingxia He ; S. Y. Wu
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We analyze the refraction of long oceanic waves at the Gulf Stream's north wall off the Florida coast as observed in imagery obtained from the RADARSAT-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) during the passage of Hurricane Bonnie on August 25, 1998. The wave spectra are derived from RADARSAT-1 SAR images from both inside and outside the Gulf Stream. From the image spectra, we can determine both the long wave's dominant wavelength and its propagation direction with 180° ambiguity. We find that the wavelength of hurricane-generated ocean waves can exceed 200 m. The calculated dominant wavelength from the SAR image spectra agree very well with in situ measurements made by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Data Buoy Center buoys. Since the waves mainly propagate toward the continental shelf from the open ocean, we can eliminate the wave propagation ambiguity. We also discuss the velocity-bunching mechanism. We find that in this very long wave case, the RADARSAT-1 SAR wave spectra should not be appreciably affected by the azimuth falloff, and we find that the ocean swell measurements can be considered reliable. We observe that the oceanic long waves change their propagation directions as they leave the Gulf Stream current. A wave-current interaction model is used to simulate the wave refraction at the Gulf Stream boundary. In addition, the wave shoaling effect is discussed. We find that wave refraction is the dominant mechanism at the Gulf Stream boundary for these very long ocean swells, while wave reflection is not a dominant factor. We extract 256-by-256 pixel full-resolution subimages from the SAR image on both sides of the Gulf Stream boundary, and then derive the wave spectra. The SAR-observed swell refraction angles at the Gulf Stream north wall agree reasonably well with those calculated by the wave-current interaction model.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:40 ,  Issue: 10 )