Autonomous Surface Vehicle Measurements of the Ocean’s Response to Tropical Cyclone Freda

Luc Lenain Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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W. Kendall Melville Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Abstract

On 31 December 2012, an instrumented autonomous surface vehicle (ASV; Wave Glider) transiting across the Pacific from Hawaii to Australia as part of the Pacific Crossing (PacX) project came very close (46 km) to the center of a category 3 Tropical Cyclone (TC), Freda, experiencing winds of up to 37 and significant wave heights close to 10 m. The Wave Glider was instrumented for surface ocean–lower atmosphere (SOLA) measurements, including atmospheric pressure, surface winds and temperature, sea surface temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence (chlorophyll-a and turbidity), and surface-wave directional spectra. Such measurements in close proximity to a tropical cyclone are rare. This study presents novel observations of the ocean’s response in three quadrants of TC Freda, collected from the instrumented glider. Evolution of the wind, the directional wave field, the sea surface temperature, and the Stokes drift profile (calculated from the wave directional spectrum) as Freda passed near the vehicle are examined. Results are discussed in the context of the recent coupled wind-wave modeling and large eddy simulation (LES) modeling of the marine boundary layer in Hurricane Frances (Sullivan et al. 2012). Processes by which cold nutrient-rich waters are entrained and mixed from below into the mixed layer as the TC passes near the Wave Glider are presented and discussed. The results of this encounter of an autonomous surface vehicle with TC Freda supports the use of ASVs for regular TC (hurricane) monitoring to complement remote sensing and “hurricane hunter” aircraft missions.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: L. Lenain, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093-0213. E-mail: llenain@ucsd.edu

Abstract

On 31 December 2012, an instrumented autonomous surface vehicle (ASV; Wave Glider) transiting across the Pacific from Hawaii to Australia as part of the Pacific Crossing (PacX) project came very close (46 km) to the center of a category 3 Tropical Cyclone (TC), Freda, experiencing winds of up to 37 and significant wave heights close to 10 m. The Wave Glider was instrumented for surface ocean–lower atmosphere (SOLA) measurements, including atmospheric pressure, surface winds and temperature, sea surface temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence (chlorophyll-a and turbidity), and surface-wave directional spectra. Such measurements in close proximity to a tropical cyclone are rare. This study presents novel observations of the ocean’s response in three quadrants of TC Freda, collected from the instrumented glider. Evolution of the wind, the directional wave field, the sea surface temperature, and the Stokes drift profile (calculated from the wave directional spectrum) as Freda passed near the vehicle are examined. Results are discussed in the context of the recent coupled wind-wave modeling and large eddy simulation (LES) modeling of the marine boundary layer in Hurricane Frances (Sullivan et al. 2012). Processes by which cold nutrient-rich waters are entrained and mixed from below into the mixed layer as the TC passes near the Wave Glider are presented and discussed. The results of this encounter of an autonomous surface vehicle with TC Freda supports the use of ASVs for regular TC (hurricane) monitoring to complement remote sensing and “hurricane hunter” aircraft missions.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: L. Lenain, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093-0213. E-mail: llenain@ucsd.edu
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