FROnt Detection in the Ocean: Applications of the FRODO Algorithm to Satellite Observations and Ocean Simulations

Yackar Mauzole
Postdoctoral Researcher

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, 3:10pm

Oceanic fronts are ubiquitous features, which exist over a large range of spatio-temporal scales (e.g., planetary fronts like the Gulf Stream, and upwelling fronts found in major coastal upwelling systems). Typically, fronts are defined as narrow boundaries separating water masses with distinct properties. In particular, sea surface temperature (SST) fronts delineate water masses with different SST, and can sometimes be observed from space through microwave radiometers and/or infrared sensors.

While papers on fronts are numerous, most studies focus on regional fronts, with a minority dealing with fronts at a global scale. To our knowledge, there are only a handful of global atlases on oceanic fronts, with consistency in detecting and identifying fronts being a recurrent challenge.

An automated method to detect SST fronts from global satellite observations was developed recently, which led to new findings: some fronts’ location was updated, while some other fronts had never been documented previously. The algorithm was later modified and implemented to detect fronts in high-resolution ocean simulations, with the aim to better understand frontal dynamics in the California Current System. Results from both projects will be presented, along with a brief introduction to the ongoing work done in the Bay of Bengal.


Yackar Mauzole works as a postdoctoral researcher in satellite oceanography at the NASA laboratory, JPL/Caltech. In 2017, she obtained her Ph.D. in Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. During her Ph.D., she established global atlases of oceanic fronts that are persistent over time, based on satellite observations. More recently, she worked on the dynamics of thermal fronts observed in the California Current System, this time by combining sea surface temperature data to sea surface height data. While her work focuses on the physical aspect of fronts, these ubiquitous features are also important for fisheries and marine ecology, since they are known to be hotspots for biological activity, and to impact the spatial distribution of nutrients across the ocean’s surface. As a woman of color in Oceanography, one of Dr. Mauzole’s goals is to encourage socio-cultural diversity by helping underrepresented students navigate higher education in STEM and to have the same opportunities to flourish and be an integral part of the field as others.