Fine-scale thermohaline structure within ocean column can be mapped seismically in the Kuroshio Current, off the Muroto Peninsula of Shikoku Island, Japan. In this paper, we present the application of automatic sound speed picking analysis to the multi-channel seismic reflection data acquired in a different period to estimate time-lapse sound speed distribution across the Kuroshio Current. This method is based on an optimal velocity trajectory solving by the eikonal equation with a finite-difference algorithm. In contrast to the seismic inversion technique, this automatic analysis enables us to obtain contrast sound speed profiles without heavy dependency on sound speed or temperature data directly measured at discrete locations. As a result, this method can visualise sound speed profiles of fine-scale thermohaline structure developed at interleaving or diapycnal mixing processes of different water masses in the Kuroshio Current. The images of all profiles mapped from automatic sound speed analysis distinguish water masses and their fine-scale internal structure such as cold and warm water eddies, thermohaline staircases and internal waves revealing acoustic contrasts at interfaces across where sound speed and temperature change. Applying our approach for individual seismic line acquired in different time-steps for 3D seismic data can provide time–space variant images of fine-scale thermohaline structure for studies of oceanographic processes as well as large-scale ocean current and climate systems.
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