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Striped ocean

Image of the Month - March 2009


With now more than 15 years of continuous, intercalibrated, altimetry data, the picture of the ocean is becoming both clearer and more complex. High-resolution mean dynamic ocean topography can be computed from altimetry, drifter, wind, and gravity data, showing the fine structure of stationary features of the ocean. A global pattern of alternating stripes (or striations) of eastward/westward flowing mesoscale currents, derived from this topography, is particularly amazing.

The same striations  are also found in  historical hydrographic data, at least down to a depth of 700 m and  in data  of the high-resolution ocean model. The physical process or processes, producing the striation, are still to be identified. Continuing the homogeneous altimetry data series should help.


See also:

Websites on this subject:


  • Maximenko, N. A., O. V. Melnichenko, P. P. Niiler, and H. Sasaki (2008), Stationary mesoscale jet-like features in the ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L08603, doi:10.1029/2008GL033267
    Link to data:

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