Remote measurements of horizontal eddy diffusivity

Darek J. Bogucki*, Burton H. Jones, Mary Elena Carr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The rate of horizontal diffusivity or lateral dispersion is key to understanding the dispersion of tracers and contaminants in the ocean, and it is an elusive, yet crucial, parameter in numerical models of circulation. However, the difficulty of parameterizing horizontal mixing is exacerbated in the shallow coastal ocean, which points to the need for more direct measurements. Here, a novel and inexpensive approach to remotely measure the rate of horizontal diffusivity is proposed. Current shipboard measurement techniques require repeated surveys and are thus time consuming and labor intensive. Furthermore, intensive in situ sampling is generally impractical for routine coastal management or for rapid assessment in the case of emergencies. A remote approach is particularly useful in shallow coastal regions or those with complex bathymetry. A time series of images from a dye-release experiment was o btained with a standard three-megapixel digital camera from a helicopter that hovered over the study area. The red-green-blue (RGB) images were then 1) analyzed to distinguish the dye from the ambient color of the water and adjacent land features, 2) orthorectified, and 3) analyzed to obtain advection and diffusion rates of the thin subsurface dye layer. A horizontal current of the order of 6 cm s-1 was found. The estimated horizontal eddy diffusivity rate for scales of O(10 m) in the harbor was 0.1 m2 s-1. The dye diffusivity and advection rate that are calculated from the images are consistent with independent calculations based on in situ measurements of current speed fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1380
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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