2002 Annual

Monday, 14 January 2002: 2:15 PM
The NOPP Year of the Ocean Drifter Program
Doug Wilson, NOAA/AOML, Miami, FL
Poster PDF (364.8 kB)
Beginning in March of 1998, over 150 WOCE type drifting buoys, drogued at 15m, have been launched in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and its approaches, providing in excess of 20,000 drifter days of data to date. Buoys were provided by the U.S. National Ocean Partnership Program; launch co-ordination was provided by scientists at NOAA/AOML and UM/RSMAS; and logistical and data processing support was provided by the NOAA/AOML Global Drifter and Data Assembly Centers. Buoys were launched with the cooperation of commercial ships, the Colombian Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and research vessels working in the region. Drifter track figures and data have been made available in real time via the WWW at www.IASlinks.org and www.drifters.doe.gov.

Repeated launches were concentrated in three areas: The Panama-Colombia Gyre in the SW Caribbean; the island passages in the Eastern Caribbean; and in the North Brazil Current rings, a primary source of mesoscale variability upstream of the Caribbean. This strategy was designed to maintain maximum coverage within the IAS as well as study propagation of variability through the region, the formation and intensification of the Caribbean Current, and the dlocation and permanence of the circulation within the Panama-Colombia Gyre.

This talk will focus on three perspectives of the program; the scientific aspects, the real-time educational program, and follow up programs that could be developed using this and other drifter data.

On the science side, ndividual drifter tracks are shown which illustrate pathways and time scales of connectivity within the region. There is also sufficient data coverage to estimate fields of mean velocity, velocity variability, and several different indicators of dispersal. Drifter-derived fields are compared to existing estimates of mean velocity (ship drift, climatological geostrophic and Ekman estimates) and variability (ship drift, altimetry). Discussion will focus on the usefulness of Lagrangian measurements for larval and other transport studies, and diagnostics of the large-scale IAS circulation field.

During the experiment, notable ongoing educational activities included the two web sites noted above, and a Scientific American Amateur Scientist article discussing drifting buoys and how to make one at home. Examples and results of the real time educational program will be shown. Lesson learned and possible changes for future similar programs will be discussed. Now that the data are edited, archived, and available, there is a need for development of programs further utilizing the resource.

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