Multi-year measurements of current velocity, salinity, and temperature from fixed and vessel-mounted sensors quantify Gulf Stream (GS) marine hydrokinetic energy (MHK) resource variability and inform development off Cape Hatteras, NC. Vessel transects across the GS demonstrate a jet-like velocity structure with speeds exceeding 2.5 m/s at the surface, persistent horizontal shear throughout the jet, and strongest vertical shears within the cyclonic shear zone. Persistent equatorward flow at the base of the GS associated with the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) produces a local maximum in vertical shear where stratification is weak and is postulated to be a site of strong turbulent mixing. Repeated transects at the same location demonstrate that the velocity structure depends upon whether the GS abuts the shelf slope or is offshore.
Currents from a fixed acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) deployed on the shoreward side of the GS exceed 1 m/s 64% of the time 40 m below the surface. The 3.75-year time series of currents from the ADCP mooring document large, roughly weekly variations in downstream and cross-stream speed (−0.5 to 2.5 m/s) and shear (± 0.05 s−1) over the entire water column due to passage of GS meanders and frontal eddies. Current reversals from the mean GS direction occur several times a month, and longer period variations in GS offshore position can result in reduced currents for weeks at a time. Unresolved small-scale shear is postulated to contribute significantly to turbulent mixing.