Detection method of the Kuroshio front using the satellite-derived chlorophyll-a images

Wataru Takahashi, Hiroshi Kawamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) has been providing high-resolution information of the oceanic front. However, in summer, increasing surface heating effects make SSTs uniform and the SST front disappears. The purpose of the present study is to examine applicability of satellite-derived surface chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) for detection of the Kuroshio front in the ocean south of Japan during the summer season. The Kuroshio surface front is formed between the Kuroshio water (KW) and the coastal water (CW) in the study area. Investigating accumulated in situ observations of SST and Chl-a, it is shown that the difference of Chl-a between KW and CW is increased in summer though that of SST becomes small. Using 76 pairs of cloud-free satellite-derived SST and Chl-a images with 0.01° spatial resolution, their seasonal variations are investigated through two-dimensional (2-D) histograms of Chl-a and SST. In summer, SST ranges from 25 to 30°C and Chl-a ranges 0.03 to 0.4 mg/m 3. Two peaks in the summer 2-D histogram correspond to wider KW and CW areas with rather uniform Chl-a and SST distributions. The peak values are extracted from the 2-D histograms and used to determine a threshold value dividing the KW and CW surface Chl-a during summer. It is found that the Chl-a concentration of 0.17 mg/m3 divides the extracted peaks into two groups, i.e., CW and KW except for a few peaks. The proposed Kuroshio-front detection method using the Chl-a images and the threshold value is examined using the satellite images and in situ data. The threshold contour superimposed in the summer Chl-a image distinctly separates the two representative waters in the ocean south of Japan. The front positions determined by the satellite-derived Chl-a, in situ SST, and in situ surface salinity transects along observation lines crossing the Kuroshio front agree with each other. Applying a traditional Kuroshio front index of temperature at 200 m depth, the capability of new Chl-a threshold in dividing two waters around the near-front area is quantitatively examined. Producing 74 match-ups of the satellite-derived Chl-a and 200-m temperature in the frontal zone, the dividing capability is evaluated quantitatively using the traditional Kuroshio-axis index. The detection capability of the proposed method is 82%, which can be considered high enough for practical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-91
Number of pages9
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jul 15
Externally publishedYes


  • Chl-a
  • Ocean surface fronts
  • SST
  • SeaWiFS
  • The Kuroshio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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