Satellite imagery provided by the LSU Earth Scan Laboratory (ESL), a GCOOS partner, reveals the separation of the most recent warm core eddy (Eddy Kraken) from the Loop Current on April 15, 2013 followed a month later by a northward surge of a large Loop Current filament. Large-scale circulation events such as those revealed by these sea surface temperature (SST) images from the NOAA-16 Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite sensor are unfortunately not yet predictable.

The ESL has long been a supporter of GCOOS efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. For over 20 years, the ESL under the direction of GCOOS member, Dr. Nan Walker, has provided real-time satellite imagery and animations of current weather, storm motion, and ocean currents. Measurements from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-East satellite are often used for tracking storms, but the ESL also tracks the Loop Current and eddies with GOES-East. This imagery is updated every 15 minutes over the Gulf of Mexico, enabling more frequent views of the ocean through holes in the clouds. Animations of these de-clouded temperature composites provides an effective means for monitoring changes in the Loop Current, the large warm core eddies and also the rapidly moving cyclonic eddies along the Loop margin. The NOAA-16 temperatures (shown in the image panel) reveal finer details in the ocean than GOES-East as the pixel size is smaller (1 km compared to 4 km pixel sides). The ESL produces a suite of AVHRR SST composites in support of GCOOS (3-day, 7-day, 15-day, 30 day) and some are integrated with sea surface height measurements from Dr. Bob Leben, another GCOOS supporter. The ESL captures data from other sensors such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM) with image archives dating back 10 years. These sensors carry visible channels that are used to produce true color images and to quantify vegetation health, sediments and pigments (algal blooms) in the Gulf of Mexico. The ESL is developing a new coastal data viewer for the entire Gulf of Mexico, which will provide mainly MODIS true color and AVHRR SST images.

The satellite data provided by ESL is a valuable data asset for decision-makers and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico who are interested in monitoring environmental conditions and coastal hazards.

GCOOS currently hosts satellite data and products from the Earth Scan Laboratory on the Data Portal. Many of the data and image products provided by ESL are incorporated into GCOOS data products and are disseminated to multiple stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to imagery available for download, GCOOS also provides an instructional request form to facilitate searches for historical imagery in the LSU ESL database. Raw and processed satellite data is also directly available, in addition to the imagery products, through the GCOOS Data Portal and LSU ESL website.

For more information about LSU Earth Scan Laboratory activities or to view imagery, please visit http://www.esl.lsu.edu.

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