Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Estimation of oceanic eddy transports from satellite altimetry


Ocean eddies, like weather systems in the atmosphere, are an important mechanism for the transport of heat, momentum and matter. The difficulty and expense of observing ocean eddies have prevented the adequate inclusion of eddy effects in studies of global ocean–atmosphere climate. Here I suggest a novel approach, which uses fluctuations in sea-surface elevation, determined from Seasat altimetry, to obtain a simple estimate of eddy transports. The method is applied here to heat and salt transports in the North Pacific. Refinements of theory and modelling, together with data from future altimetric satellites, will improve the precision of the method.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Bryan, K. J. geophys. Res. 67, 3403–3413 (1962).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Bennett, A. F. J. phys. Oceanogr. 8, 785–798 (1978).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Bryden, H. L. & Hall, M. M. Science 207, 884–886 (1980).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Holloway, G. & Kristmannsson, S. S. J. Fluid Mech. 141, 27–50 (1984).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Cheney, R. E., Marsh, J. G. & Beckley, B. D. J. geophys. Res. 88, 4343–4354 (1983).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Wunsch, C. & Gaposchkin, E. M. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 18, 725–745 (1980).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Fu, L.-L. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 21, 1657–1666 (1983).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Rhines, P. B. J. Fluid Mech. 69, 417–443 (1975).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Holloway, G. & Hendershott, M. C. J. Fluid Mech. 82, 747–765 (1977).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Bennett, A. F. & White, W. B. J. phys. Oceanogr. 16, 728–740 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Emery, W. J. & Dewar, J. S. Prog. Oceanogra. 11, 219–305 (1982).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    McBean, G. A. Preprint, Institute of Ocean Sciences (Sidney, Canada, 1986).

  13. 13

    Talley, L. D. Ocean. J. phys. Oceanogr. 14, 231–241 (1984).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Baumgartner, A. & Reichel, E. The World Water Balance (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1975).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Elliot, W. P. & Reed, R. K. J. Clim. appl. Met. 23, 434–439 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Holloway, G. Estimation of oceanic eddy transports from satellite altimetry. Nature 323, 243–244 (1986).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing