Increasing the Reliability of Circulation Model Validation: Quantifying Drifter Slip to See how Currents are Actually Moving

Monday, 14 December 2015: 09:30
3009 (Moscone West)
Timothy Anderson, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, United States
Ocean circulation forecasts can help answer questions regarding larval dispersal, passive movement of injured sea animals, oil spill mitigation, and search and rescue efforts. Circulation forecasts are often validated with GPS-tracked drifter paths, but how accurately do these drifters actually move with ocean currents? Drifters are not only moved by water, but are also forced by wind and waves acting on the exposed buoy and transmitter; this imperfect movement is referred to as drifter slip. The quantification and further understanding of drifter slip will allow scientists to differentiate between drifter imperfections and actual computer model error when comparing trajectory forecasts with actual drifter tracks. This will avoid falsely accrediting all discrepancies between a trajectory forecast and an actual drifter track to computer model error. During multiple deployments of drifters in Nantucket Sound and using observed wind and wave data, we attempt to quantify the slip of drifters developed by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s (NEFSC) Student Drifters Program. While similar studies have been conducted previously, very few have directly attached current meters to drifters to quantify drifter slip. Furthermore, none have quantified slip of NEFSC drifters relative to the oceanographic-standard “CODE” drifter. The NEFSC drifter archive has over 1000 drifter tracks primarily off the New England coast. With a better understanding of NEFSC drifter slip, modelers can reliably use these tracks for model validation.