Marine Science Faculty Publications

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drifters, ocean circulation, satellite altimetry, surface currents, trajectory model

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Lagrangian particle trajectory models based on several altimetry-derived surface current products are used to hindcast the drifter trajectories observed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico during May to August 2010 (the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident). The performances of the trajectory models are gauged in terms of Lagrangian separation distances (d) and a nondimensional skill score (s), respectively. A series of numerical experiments show that these altimetry-based trajectory models have about the same performance, with a certain improvement by adding surface wind Ekman components, especially over the shelf region. However, their hindcast skills are slightly better than those of the data assimilative numerical model output. After 3 days' simulation the altimetry-based trajectory models have mean d values of 75-83 and 34-42 km (s values of 0.49-0.51 and 0.35-0.43) in the Gulf of Mexico deep water area and on the West Florida Continental Shelf, respectively. These satellite altimetry data products are useful for providing essential information on ocean surface currents of use in water property transports, offshore oil and gas operations, hazardous spill mitigation, search and rescue, etc. Key Points Altimetry-derived current products are evaluated using drifter observations Altimetry-based trajectory models perform better than numerical ocean models Altimetry products can provide essential information on ocean surface currents.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 119, issue 5, p. 2827-2842

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