A quasi-Lagrangian study of mid-ocean variability using long range SOFAR floats
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Twenty neutrally buoyant SOFAR floats were used in the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment (MODE) to study the structure and variability of the deep ocean currents. The floats were clustered so that the pattern of motions could be resolved (mapping and pattern recognition). A number of float trajectories are shown and the very individual character of their signature is emphasized. Some floats remain nearly stationary for a year whereas others will cover hundreds of kilometers to the south or west in just a few months. Superposition of all trajectories in the spaghetti diagram is shown to reveal considerable organization of the "eddy" field in the MODE area and is thought to be caused by the near presence of the Blake-Bahama Outer Ridge to the west. There is considerable asymmetry to the float dispersal with floats rapidly scattering to the south and west, but not to the north and east even though the r .m.s. velocities are a factor 3 to 6 times greater than the mean drift. The evolution and dispersal of the float cluster is illustrated in a set of figures in each of which a 12 day segment of all float trajectories is displayed. At times their mobility and relative motion is shown to be associated with onset of sudden swirls and regions of large horizontal shear, features that are not evident from the analysis of individual trajectories. Cluster averages of the float velocities and kinetic energy, computed weekly and plotted as a function of time, show substantial variability. Much better averages are obtained by limiting the cluster to floats within a geographical region. As the spaghetti diagram indicates and the following paper discusses in more detail there exist substantial geographical variations in the average kinetic energy levels. These may be in some way caused topographically by the close proximity to the continental margin. Whatever the reason they caution us to reexamine the notion that the scale of variation of the second order eddy statistics is large compared to the eddies themselves, at least in the MODE-I area. Ten floats also contained a system to record the local pressure, temperature and vertical currents. The pressure and temperature yield data concerning low frequency vertical displacements and the vertical current meters measure the internal wave sea state which is shown to be remarkably constant.
Also published as Journal of Marine Research, 1975, Volume 33, No . 3, pp. 355-382
Suggested CitationTechnical Report: Rossby, H. Thomas, Voorhis, Arthur D., Webb, Douglas C., "A quasi-Lagrangian study of mid-ocean variability using long range SOFAR floats", 1976-04, DOI:10.1575/1912/10779, https://hdl.handle.net/1912/10779
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