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Determining Vertical Water Velocities from Seaglider

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  • 1 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
  • | 2 School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 3 Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Vertical velocities in the world’s oceans are typically small, less than 1 cm s−1, posing a significant challenge for observational techniques. Seaglider, an autonomous profiling instrument, can be used to estimate vertical water velocity in the ocean. Using a Seaglider’s flight model and pressure observations, vertical water velocities are estimated along glider trajectories in the Labrador Sea before, during, and after deep convection. Results indicate that vertical velocities in the stratified ocean agree with the theoretical Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB) scaling of w; and in the turbulent mixed layer, scale with buoyancy, and wind forcing. It is estimated that accuracy is to within 0.5 cm s−1. Because of uncertainties in the flight model, velocities are poor near the surface and deep apogees, and during extended roll maneuvers. Some of this may be improved by using a dynamic flight model permitting acceleration and by better constraining flight parameters through pilot choices during the mission.

Corresponding author address: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, National Oceanography Centre, Empress Dock, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. E-mail: e.frajka-williams@noc.ac.uk

Abstract

Vertical velocities in the world’s oceans are typically small, less than 1 cm s−1, posing a significant challenge for observational techniques. Seaglider, an autonomous profiling instrument, can be used to estimate vertical water velocity in the ocean. Using a Seaglider’s flight model and pressure observations, vertical water velocities are estimated along glider trajectories in the Labrador Sea before, during, and after deep convection. Results indicate that vertical velocities in the stratified ocean agree with the theoretical Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB) scaling of w; and in the turbulent mixed layer, scale with buoyancy, and wind forcing. It is estimated that accuracy is to within 0.5 cm s−1. Because of uncertainties in the flight model, velocities are poor near the surface and deep apogees, and during extended roll maneuvers. Some of this may be improved by using a dynamic flight model permitting acceleration and by better constraining flight parameters through pilot choices during the mission.

Corresponding author address: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, National Oceanography Centre, Empress Dock, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. E-mail: e.frajka-williams@noc.ac.uk
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