Examining the Accuracy of GlobCurrent Upper Ocean Velocity Data Products on the Northwestern Atlantic Shelf

Academic Article


  • This study provides a regional coastal ocean assessment of global upper ocean current data developed by the GlobCurrent (GC) project. These gridded data synthesize multiple satellite altimeter and wind model inputs to estimate both Geostrophic and Ekman-layer velocities. While the GC product was mostly devised and intended for open ocean studies, the present objective is to assess whether its data quality nearer the coast is suitable for other applications. The key ground truth sources are long-term mean and time series observations on the Northwestern Atlantic (NWA) shelf derived from Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) and high frequency (HF) radar networks in both the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) and the Gulf of Maine (GoM). Results indicate that mean geostrophic currents across the MAB and the offshore GoM agree to roughly 10% in speed and 10 degree in direction with the in situ depth-averaged currents, with correlation levels of 0.5–0.8 at seasonal and longer time scales. Interior GoM comparisons at 5 coastal buoys show much less agreement. One likely source of GoM error is shown to be the GC mean dynamic topography near the coast. Comparison to near-surface MAB HF radar current measurements on the MAB shelf shows significant GC data improvement when including the surface Ekman term. Overall, the study results imply that application of GlobCurrent data may prove useful in coastal seas with broad continental shelves such as the MAB or Scotian shelf, but that large inaccuracies inside the GoM diminish its utility there.
  • Authors

  • Feng, Hui
  • Vandemark, Douglas
  • Levin, Julia
  • Wilkin, John
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • August 2018
  • Published In

  • Remote Sensing  Journal
  • Keywords

  • ADCP
  • Ekman current
  • GlobCurrent
  • Gulf of Maine
  • HF radar
  • Mid-Atlantic Bight
  • geostrophic current
  • ocean dynamic topography
  • satellite altimetry
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1205
  • End Page

  • 1205
  • Volume

  • 10
  • Issue

  • 8