AAAI Publications, Twenty-Sixth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence

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A Novel and Scalable Spatio-Temporal Technique for Ocean Eddy Monitoring
James H. Faghmous, Yashu Chamber, Shyam Boriah, Frode Vikebø, Stefan Liess, Michel dos Santos Mesquita, Vipin Kumar

Last modified: 2012-07-12


Swirls of ocean currents known as ocean eddies are a crucial component of the ocean's dynamics. In addition to dominating the ocean's kinetic energy, eddies play a significant role in the transport of water, salt, heat, and nutrients. Therefore, understanding current and future eddy patterns is a central climate challenge to address future sustainability of marine ecosystems. The emergence of sea surface height observations from satellite radar altimeter has recently enabled researchers to track eddies at a global scale. The majority of studies that identify eddies from observational data employ highly parametrized connected component algorithms using expert filtered data, effectively making reproducibility and scalability challenging. In this paper, we frame the challenge of monitoring ocean eddies as an unsupervised learning problem. We present a novel change detection algorithm that automatically identifies and monitors eddies in sea surface height data based on heuristics derived from basic eddy properties. Our method is accurate, efficient, and scalable. To demonstrate its performance we analyze eddy activity in the Nordic Sea (60-80N and 20W-20E), an area that has received limited attention and has proven to be difficult to analyze using other methods.

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