Pairwise surface drifter separation in the western Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean
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Pairwise surface drifter separation in the western Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean
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    Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 120(10), 6769-6781.
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  • Description:
    The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in global climate, yet the mixing properties of the circulation in this part of the ocean remain poorly understood. Here dispersion in the vicinity of the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front, one of the branches of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, is studied using 10 pairs of surface drifters deployed systematically across the frontal jet and its flanks. Drifter pairs were deployed with an initial separation of 13 m and report their position every hour. The separation of the pairs over 7 months, in terms of their Finite-Scale Lyapunov Exponents (FSLE), dispersion, and diffusivity, is characterized and related to expected behavior from Quasi-Geostrophic (QG) and Surface Quasi-Geostrophic (SQG) theories. The FSLE analysis reveals two submesoscale regimes, with SQG-like behavior at scales below 3.2 km and mixed QG/SQG behavior at scales between 3.2 and 73 km. The dispersion analysis, however, suggests QG-like behavior for the smallest scales. Both dispersion and diffusivity appear isotropic for scales up to 500 km. Finally, there is no clear indication of a cross-jet variation of drifter dispersion.
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