EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Observing and quantifying ocean flow properties using drifters with drogues at different depths

Irina I. Rypina1, Timothy R. Getscher1,2, Larry J. Pratt1, and Baptiste Mourre3
Irina I. Rypina et al.
  • 1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States of America (
  • 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States of America (
  • 3SOCIB Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System, Palma de Mallorca, Spain(

We present analyses of drifters with drogues at 1, 10, 30 and 50 m, which were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea to investigate subduction and upwelling processes. Drifter trajectories were used to estimate divergence, vorticity, vertical velocity, and finite-size Lyapunov exponents (FTLEs), and to investigate the magnitudes of terms in the vertical vorticity equation. The divergence and vorticity are O(f) and change sign along trajectories. Vertical velocity is O(1 mm/s), is larger at depth, indicates predominant upwelling with isolated downwelling events, and sometimes changes sign between 1 and 50 m. Vortex stretching is one of, but not the only, significant term in the vertical vorticity balance. 2D FTLEs are 2x10^(-5) 1/s after 1 day, about twice larger than in a 400-m-resolution numerical model. 3D FTLEs are 50% larger than 2D FTLEs and are dominated by the vertical shear of horizontal velocity. Bootstrapping-based uncertainty for both divergence and vorticity is ~10% of the time-mean absolute values. Simulated drifters in a model suggest that drifter-based divergence and vorticity are close to true model values, except when drifters get aligned into long and narrow filaments. Drifter-based vertical velocity is close to true values in the model at 1 m but differs from the true model values at deeper depths. The errors in the vertical velocity are largely due to the lateral separation between drifters at different depths, and partially due to having drifters at only 4 depths. Overall, multi-level drifters provided useful information about the 3D flow structure.

How to cite: Rypina, I. I., Getscher, T. R., Pratt, L. J., and Mourre, B.: Observing and quantifying ocean flow properties using drifters with drogues at different depths, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13761,, 2021.

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