Remote sensing of ocean currents

Science. 1989 Dec 8;246(4935):1282-5. doi: 10.1126/science.246.4935.1282.


A method of remotely measuring near-surface ocean currents with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is described. The apparatus consists of a single SAR transmitter and two receiving antennas. The phase difference between SAR image scenes obtained from the antennas forms an interferogram that is directly proportional to the surface current. The first field test of this technique against conventional measurements gives estimates of mean currents accurate to order 20 percent, that is, root-mean-square errors of 5 to 10 centimeters per second in mean flows of 27 to 56 centimeters per second. If the full potential of the method could be realized with spacecraft, then it might be possible to routinely monitor the surface currents of the world's oceans.