Jump to resource

Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Reconstruction of the velocity field of ocean currents at a global scale based on satellite observations in the microwave spectrum

Lead Researcher:
Jordi Isern Fontanet

Research Centre:
Instituto Catalán de Ciencias del Clima. Barcelona.


Jordi Isern FontanetOcean currents are a key element in the understanding of many oceanic and climate phenomena, and knowledge of them is fundamental for operational applications and navigation. Altimetric measures now make it possible to reconstruct the field of velocities on the ocean surface at spatial resolutions in the order of 100‑150 km, and with major errors in the localisation of currents when only two altimeters are available. Nevertheless, recent studies suggest that the velocities may also be estimated directly based on a single image of the sea surface temperature (SST) using an effective version of the surface quasi-geostrophic equations (eSQG). The application of this approach to the calculation of currents on a global scale requires certain adaptations and studies. Firstly, the oceans' cloud cover makes it necessary to use SST images obtained in the microwave spectrum, which means that its capacity to detect oceanic structures must be investigated, and that methodology must be adapted to these data. Secondly, it is necessary to adapt the eSQG approach so that it functions under a wider range of conditions. As a result of this, the main aim of this project is to develop and validate a methodology for the calculation of ocean currents on a global scale, based on the eSQG approach which combines SST observations using microwaves and altimeters, while researching the spatial variability and distribution of the currents observed.

During the first months of the project, work has commenced on measuring the capacity of current microwave sensors to identify mesoscale oceanic structures and thereby reconstruct velocities. For this, the reconstruction of oceanic currents was validated on the basis of quasi-geostrophic theory using SST measurements in the microwave range at a global level, taking the currents obtained using altimetry as the reference during the period when a maximum number of satellites were available (2002‑2005). Globally, the preliminary results show that reconstruction works better in areas that are close to the main maritime currents: the Gulf Stream, the circumpolar Antarctic current and the Kuroshio current.


Scientific production
2 papers at national conferences

Researcher's web address:


Jordi Isern Fontanet

Jordi Isern i Fontanet holds a Degree in Physics from the University of Barcelona and a Doctorate in Applied Physics from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. In 2003, he finished his doctoral thesis at the Marine Science Institute (CSIC) where he continued researching until 2005. During 2005-2006 he worked in the Laboratoire de Physique des Océans (Ocean Physics Laboratory) (CNRS/IRD/UBO/Ifremer) in Brest, France, funded by a postdoctoral grant from the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Later, in 2006-2008 he worked in the Laboratoire d'Océanographie Spatiale (Ifremer), which is also in Brest, thanks to a Marie Curie (EIF) Grant under the 7th Framework Programme of the EU. In 2009 he joined the Catalan Climate Science Institute (IC3) with a Ramón y Cajal contract co-financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. He is currently the head of the Dynamic Oceanography and Climate Group of the IC3. Jordi Isern i Fontanet has taken part in more than 15 national and international research projects and was the Principal Investigator in some of these. He is an ANEP evaluator, has presented more than 30 contributions to congresses, mostly oral communications, and has published about 20 papers on oceanography and remote detection in peer-reviewed international journals and he is a reviewer for journals such as J. Geophys. Res., J. Phys. Ocean. or Geophys. Res. Lett. On the other hand, Jordi Isern i Fontanet currently lectures for the Master's degree in remote detection at the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and the Autonomous University, Barcelona, and is supervising two doctoral theses. His most outstanding scientific contributions in the field of oceanography centre on the detection and analysis of ocean whirlpools at mesoscale and the reconstruction of the dynamics of the surface layers of the sea based on satellite observations.

*All intellectual property rights belong to the author. Reproduction of all or part of the work without permission from the author is prohibited.
© RAMÓN ARECES FOUNDATION. All rights reserved. 

Síguenos en

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Youtube
  • Slideshare

© 2007 Fundación Ramón Areces All rights reserved.

c/ Vitruvio, 5. 28006 Madrid (España) | Telephone: 91 515 89 82 | C.I.F.: G-28459311