Seismic observations from a Yakutat eddy in the northern Gulf of Alaska



Recent works show that the seismic oceanography technique allows us to relate water column seismic reflections to oceanic finescale structures. In this study, finescale structures of a surface anticyclonic eddy have been unveiled by reprocessing two seismic transects acquired in the northern Gulf of Alaska using an 8 km hydrophone streamer and 6600 cu in linear airgun array in September 2008. The eddy was a typical bowl-like structure with around 55 km width and 700 m depth. It has two fringes around the eddy base and a spiral arm at the NE edge. The in situ sea surface temperature and salinity data from a shipboard thermosalinograph help to confirm our interpretations of a spiral arm shed from the warm eddy and the entrained cold water from elsewhere. Nearby the eddy and offshore the shelf-break, there is a strong frontal feature, probably the Alaska Current. The eddy likely formed offshore Yakutat shelf and transported along the offshore shelf-break by tracking the sea level anomalies. Its equivalent diameter of 65 km was measured using the along-track altimeter and the seismic constraints. It was comparable with results from the representative conventional algorithms of eddy detection. Geostrophic velocities of the eddy were estimated from the dipping seismic reflections under the assumptions of approximate isopycnals and geostrophic balance. Measured water properties including sea surface temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll revealed that eddy translation transports coastal water to the pelagic regions. Structures synthesized from CTD profiles that sampled an earlier eddy suggest that thin striae around the base might be a common feature in Gulf of Alaska eddies.