Models for the towing of large tabular icebergs give towing speeds of 0.5 knots to 1.0 knots relative to the ambient near surface current. Recent oceanographic research indicates that the world oceans are not principally composed of large steady-state current systems, like the Gulf Stream, but that most of the ocean momentum is probably involved in intense rings, formed by meanders of the large streams, and in mid-ocean eddies. These rings and eddies have typical dimensions on the order of 200 km with dynamic height anomalies across them of tens-of-centimeters to a meter. They migrate at speeds on the order of a few cm/sec. Current velocities as great as 3 knots have been observed in rings, and currents of 1 knot are common. Thus, the successful towing of icebergs is dependent on the ability to locate, measure, and track ocean rings and eddies. To accomplish this systematically on synoptic scales appears to be possible only by using satelliteborne radar altimeters. Ocean current and eddy structures as observed by the radar altimeters on the GEOS-3 and Seasat-1 satellites are presented and compared. Several satellite programs presently being planned call for flying radar altimeters in polar or near-polar orbits in the mid-1980 time frame. Thus, by the time tows of large icebergs will probably be attempted, it is possible synoptic observations of ocean rings and eddies which can be used to ascertain their location, size, intensity, and translation velocity will be a reality. ?? 1980.
Additional publication details
Ocean eddy structure by satellite radar altimetry required for iceberg towing