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GCOS Ocean Physical ECV - Surface Current

Surface currents span a wide range of space and timescales, from basin-wide motions to mesoscale eddies with scales greater than 100 km, fast narrow currents of the order of 100 km wide, submesoscale features down to the kilometre scale, and finally down to turbulence scales of less than 1 m. Large-scale circulations, such as the meridional overturning circulation, have surface components that transport a great deal of energy and consequently allow that energy to be transferred to the atmosphere and greatly impact the weather and climate downwind of the air–sea exchanges. On smaller spatial scales, the boundary currents on each side of the ocean basin transport heat, salt and passive tracers, and have a large impact on seaborne commerce and fishing. Motion on these scales also has a large impact on vertical circulation and mixing, and in turn on marine ecosystems and ocean productivity. The equatorial currents and counter currents have a relatively large impact on surface exchanges of energy and moisture. Currents, particularly tidal currents, can also modify storm surge impacts and sea-level changes.

Product Requirements:

  • Surface Geostrophic Current:

    • Frequency:  Hourly to weekly 
    • Resolution:  30 km
    • Required Measurement Uncertainty:  5 cm/s
    • Stability (per decade unless otherwise specified:  Not specified 
    • Standards/References:  See EOV specification sheets at www.ioc-goos-oopc/obs/ecv.php
    • Entity (Satellite):  WGClimate
    • Entity (in situ):  JCOMM


Data Sources: