The SAR images help us make sense of what we’re seeing from our limited small-scale perspective. For example, when we made a north-south slice through the mushroom plume we noticed the currents below the surface layer reversed. Without any regional context, we’d be left to guess at the reason for this reversal. From the image, we can visualize the plume circulation with a northeastward flow through the center and a return flow to the north.
The SAR images also give us ideas about new physics to look for. Zooming in on the icy parts of the mushroom, Tom Peacock from MIT, noticed bands that he guessed were the surface signature of internal waves. Yesterday, we did a short survey with the FastCTD, sampling only down to 40 m and back in quick succession for about an hour. Sure enough, Tom found internal waves with a period of about 20 minutes traveling along the pycnocline. He thinks that the ice itself is creating them by interacting with the currents and generating lee waves.
And just like that, a new scientific endeavor is born from just a single picture.