Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dana Fields's Internship, Summer 2013 - Part 4

I’ve decided to “dedicate” this blog entry to a brief discussion of my experience performing data analysis using MATLAB vs Excel.

There is absolutely no doubt that MATLAB is a better platform for those who know how to use it!

With Excel I was able to plot graphs showing temperature and depth fluctuations recorded by one of the CTD-Divers for a day, a month, two months, and 4 months. I could see the tidal fluctuations and even match the “blip” in late August to Hurricane Isaac and the shorter “blip” in June to Tropical Storm Debbie. The main point in favor of Excel is that I know how to use it! Another point that I favor is that I could provide the data set to my more advanced high school students and expect them to be able to use Excel to plot similar graphs and, hopefully, make similar correlations between blips on the graphs and storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the other hand, MATLAB can be used to do so much more… if you know what you are doing. We were able to plot the temperature and depth data for all of the DCT-Divers on each mooring on the same page. This made it easy to see which variations were reflected from near surface all the way to the ocean floor.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, knowledgeable MATLAB practitioners can go much further with the data, applying filters and performing spectral analysis with an eye toward learning as much as possible from a relatively simple (although humungous) data set. I’m still working on a better understanding of how it all works. I have a feeling that I’m not going to become an expert in the next few days… but I’ve gained a keen appreciation for how statistics and mathematical methods can be applied to understand the physical aspects of our Earth’s oceans.  

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Dana Fields (Florida State University)

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