Monthly charts of the north wall of the Gulf Stream, derived from aircraft, satellite and surface observations, have been published by the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office in The Gulf Stream Monthly Summary from 1966 until 1974, and by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Gulf Stream from 1975 until 1980 and in Oceanographic Monthly Summary from 1981 to 1994. Since 1994 charts have been obtained from the US Navy. The latitude of the north wall was read from each chart at six longitudes : 79W, 75W, 72W, 70W, 67W and 65W (the charts were incomplete east of 65W). Principal components analysis was used to find the pattern of variation common to the six longitudes.

This is preferable to simple averaging of the six latitude measurements which would emphasise the eastern longitudes where the north-south movements of the Stream are largest, possibly obscuring smaller but coherent north-south shifts further west. Correlation coefficients were calculated between the time-series at the six longitudes and principal components calculated from the resulting correlation matrix. Each principal component is a weighted average of the six latitude series whose weightings can be expressed as correlation coefficients between the component and the original series. The first principal component of the position of the north wall has positive correlation coefficients of 0.15, 0.54, 0.49, 0.62, 0.57 and 0.48 with the latitude of the north wall at the six longitudes from 79W to 65W respectively and can therefore be regarded as representing coherent variations from month to month in this section of the Gulf Stream. (This principal component is virtually indistinguishable from that obtained when the annual cycle is removed beforehand.) This principal component is the Gulf Stream north wall index (the GSNW index).

The eigenvalue corresponding to the first principal component has a value of 1.5 so that the component accounts for 25% of the total variance of the six variables. This percentage has undoubtedly been reduced by the short period meandering of the Gulf Stream, for there will be little correlation between meanders that are widely separated in longitude. The correlation coefficients quoted show that the north-south shifts described by the component are evident at all the longitudes. The variation of latitude associated with the first principal component has a standard deviation at the six longitudes from 79W to 65W of 0.04, 0.12, 0.25, 0.26, 0.34 and 0.37 degrees, respectively.


Book by Prof. Arnold Taylor