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Journal of Physical Oceanography








A single-layer, reduced-gravity, double-gyre primitive equation model in a 2000 km x 2000 km square domain is used to test the accuracy and sensitivity of time-dependent Eulerian velocity fields reconstructed from numerically generated drifter trajectories and climatology. The goal is to determine how much Lagrangian data is needed to capture the Eulerian velocity field within a specified accuracy. The Eulerian fields are found by projecting, on an analytic set of divergence-free basis functions, drifter data launched in the active western half of the basin supplemented by climatology in the eastern domain. The time-dependent coefficients are evaluated by least squares minimization and the reconstructed fields are compared to the original model output. The authors find that the accuracy of the reconstructed fields depends critically on the spatial coverage of the drifter observations. With good spatial coverage, the technique allows accurate Eulerian reconstructions with under 200 drifters deployed in the 1000 km x 1400 km energetic western region. The base reconstruction error, achieved with full observation of the velocity field, ranges from 5% (with 191 basis functions) to 30% (with 65 basis functions). Specific analysis of the relation between spatial coverage and reconstruction error is presented using 180 drifters deployed in 100 different initial configurations that maximize coverage extremes. The simulated drifter data is projected on 107 basis functions for a 50-day period. The base reconstruction error of 15% is achieved when drifters occupy approximately 110 (out of 285) 70-km cells in the western region. Reconstructions from simulated mooring data located at the initial positions of representative good and poor coverage drifter deployments show the effect drifter dispersion has on data voids. The authors conclude that with appropriate coverage, drifter data could provide accurate basin-scale reconstruction of Eulerian velocity fields.

Original Publication Citation

Toner, M., Poje, A.C., Kirwan, A.D., Jones, C., Lipphardt, B.L., & Grosch, C.E. (2001). Reconstructing basin-scale eulerian velocity fields from simulated drifter data. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 31(5), 1361-1376. doi: 10.1175/1520-0485(2001);2

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