The effect of drifter GPS errors on estimates of submesoscale vorticity

TitleThe effect of drifter GPS errors on estimates of submesoscale vorticity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSpydell M.S, Feddersen F, MacMahan J.
Date Published2019/11
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0739-0572
Accession NumberWOS:000496268100003
Keywordscirculation; currents; differential kinematic properties; dispersion; Engineering; error analysis; Global positioning systems (GPS); lagrangian observations; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences; number; ocean; statistics; velocities

Differential kinematic flow properties (DKP), such as vertical vorticity, have been estimated from surface drifters. However, previous DKP error estimates were a posteriori and did not include correlated errors across drifters. To accurately estimate submesoscale (<= 1 km) DKPs from drifters, errors must be better understood. Here, the a priori vorticity standard error is derived that depends upon the number of drifters in the cluster, the drifter cluster major and minor axes lengths, the instrument velocity error, and the cross-drifter error correlation. Two stationary GPS experiments, with zero vorticity, were performed at separations of O(10(1)-10(3)) m to understand vorticity error and test the derivation using 1 Hz position differences and Doppler shift velocities. Vorticity errors of +/- 5f (where f is the local Coriolis parameter)were found for approximate to 40 m separations. The frequency-dependent velocity variances and GPS-to-GPS correlations are quantified. Vorticity estimated with a "blended" velocity has reduced error. The stationary vorticity error can be well predicted given velocity error, correlation, and minor axis length. Vorticity error analysis is applied to submesoscale-sampling in situ GPS drifters near Point Sal, California. The derivation predicts when large high-frequency vorticity fluctuations (indicating noise) occur. Previously, cluster area or ellipticity were used as criteria to distinguish error. We show that the drifter cluster minor axis (narrowness) is a key time-dependent factor affecting vorticity error, and even for velocity errors <0.004 m s(-1), the vorticity error exceeds +/- 5f when cluster minor axis <50 m. These results will aid submesoscale drifter deployment planning.

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