Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic

The Tropical Atlantic Ocean has recently been the source of enormous amounts of floating Sargassum macroalgae that have started to inundate shorelines in the Caribbean, the western coast of Africa and northern Brazil. It is still unclear, however, how the surface currents carry the Sargassum, largel...

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Main Authors: Erik van Sebille, Erik Zettler, Nicolas Wienders, Linda Amaral-Zettler, Shane Elipot, Rick Lumpkin
Format: Article
Language:English
Published: Frontiers Media S.A. 2021-01-01
Series:Frontiers in Marine Science
Subjects:
Online Access:https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.607426/full
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spelling doaj-79484d08bb2248c5991369d698b065ae2021-01-15T15:35:27ZengFrontiers Media S.A.Frontiers in Marine Science2296-77452021-01-01710.3389/fmars.2020.607426607426Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical AtlanticErik van Sebille0Erik Zettler1Nicolas Wienders2Linda Amaral-Zettler3Linda Amaral-Zettler4Shane Elipot5Rick Lumpkin6Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, NetherlandsNIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, NetherlandsDepartment of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United StatesNIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, NetherlandsInstitute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, The University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NetherlandsRosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, United StatesAtlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Miami, FL, United StatesThe Tropical Atlantic Ocean has recently been the source of enormous amounts of floating Sargassum macroalgae that have started to inundate shorelines in the Caribbean, the western coast of Africa and northern Brazil. It is still unclear, however, how the surface currents carry the Sargassum, largely restricted to the upper meter of the ocean, and whether observed surface drifter trajectories and hydrodynamical ocean models can be used to simulate its pathways. Here, we analyze a dataset of two types of surface drifters (38 in total), purposely deployed in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean in July, 2019. Twenty of the surface drifters were undrogued and reached only ∼8 cm into the water, while the other 18 were standard Surface Velocity Program (SVP) drifters that all had a drogue centered around 15 m depth. We show that the undrogued drifters separate more slowly than the drogued SVP drifters, likely because of the suppressed turbulence due to convergence in wind rows, which was stronger right at the surface than at 15 m depth. Undrogued drifters were also more likely to enter the Caribbean Sea. We also show that the novel Surface and Merged Ocean Currents (SMOC) product from the Copernicus Marine Environmental Service (CMEMS) does not clearly simulate one type of drifter better than the other, highlighting the need for further improvements in assimilated hydrodynamic models in the region, for a better understanding and forecasting of Sargassum drift in the Tropical Atlantic.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.607426/fullocean currentsocean dispersionsurface driftersSargassumTropical Atlantic
collection DOAJ
language English
format Article
sources DOAJ
author Erik van Sebille
Erik Zettler
Nicolas Wienders
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Shane Elipot
Rick Lumpkin
spellingShingle Erik van Sebille
Erik Zettler
Nicolas Wienders
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Shane Elipot
Rick Lumpkin
Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
Frontiers in Marine Science
ocean currents
ocean dispersion
surface drifters
Sargassum
Tropical Atlantic
author_facet Erik van Sebille
Erik Zettler
Nicolas Wienders
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Linda Amaral-Zettler
Shane Elipot
Rick Lumpkin
author_sort Erik van Sebille
title Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
title_short Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
title_full Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
title_fullStr Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
title_full_unstemmed Dispersion of Surface Drifters in the Tropical Atlantic
title_sort dispersion of surface drifters in the tropical atlantic
publisher Frontiers Media S.A.
series Frontiers in Marine Science
issn 2296-7745
publishDate 2021-01-01
description The Tropical Atlantic Ocean has recently been the source of enormous amounts of floating Sargassum macroalgae that have started to inundate shorelines in the Caribbean, the western coast of Africa and northern Brazil. It is still unclear, however, how the surface currents carry the Sargassum, largely restricted to the upper meter of the ocean, and whether observed surface drifter trajectories and hydrodynamical ocean models can be used to simulate its pathways. Here, we analyze a dataset of two types of surface drifters (38 in total), purposely deployed in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean in July, 2019. Twenty of the surface drifters were undrogued and reached only ∼8 cm into the water, while the other 18 were standard Surface Velocity Program (SVP) drifters that all had a drogue centered around 15 m depth. We show that the undrogued drifters separate more slowly than the drogued SVP drifters, likely because of the suppressed turbulence due to convergence in wind rows, which was stronger right at the surface than at 15 m depth. Undrogued drifters were also more likely to enter the Caribbean Sea. We also show that the novel Surface and Merged Ocean Currents (SMOC) product from the Copernicus Marine Environmental Service (CMEMS) does not clearly simulate one type of drifter better than the other, highlighting the need for further improvements in assimilated hydrodynamic models in the region, for a better understanding and forecasting of Sargassum drift in the Tropical Atlantic.
topic ocean currents
ocean dispersion
surface drifters
Sargassum
Tropical Atlantic
url https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.607426/full
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AT lindaamaralzettler dispersionofsurfacedriftersinthetropicalatlantic
AT shaneelipot dispersionofsurfacedriftersinthetropicalatlantic
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