SAR-imaged spiral eddies in Mutsu Bay and their dynamic and kinematic models

Satoshi Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Kawamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A pattern of slick streaks winding into a spiral, known as a spiral eddy, was identified in 5 images taken by the ERS-1/2 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) in Mutsu Bay (Japan); dynamic and kinematic models of these spiral eddies have been proposed. Common characteristics of the five spiral eddies are: 1) an eddy diameter of about 15 km; 2) their location in the western part of the bay; and 3) their cyclonic direction of rotation. Moreover, the wind conditions over the bay were common: prior to acquiring the images, a strong easterly wind continued blowing for more than one day. The wind field on the bay is known to be orographically steered and has strong windstress vorticity, which generates cyclonic circulation. The diameter and location of the circulation simulated with a numerical ocean model corresponded well to those of the identified spiral eddies. Based on these facts, we propose a dynamic model for the movement of a slick streak, and a kinematic model for the formation of a spiral eddy. We have assumed calm air, a microlayer and seawater with a cyclonic circulation in the dynamic model. The balance of forces is established in the microlayer among the frictional force from the seawater, the frictional force from the calm air, the gravitational force, and the Coriolis force. As a result, the velocity vector of the microlayer deflects slightly towards the center of the cyclonic circulation. We have assumed a point source of the microlayer in the kinematic model. The shapes of a slick streak simulated with the models agree well with the identified patterns in the SAR images.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-539
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Mutsu Bay
  • Orographically steered winds
  • Spiral eddy
  • Synthetic aperture radar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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