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Rick Lumpkin
,
Nikolai Maximenko
, and
Mayra Pazos

Abstract

NOAA ’s Global Drifter Program (GDP) manages a global array of ~1250 active satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys (“drifters”) in collaboration with numerous national and international partners. To better manage the drifter array and to assess the performance of various drifter manufacturers, it is important to discriminate between drifters that cease transmitting because of internal failure and those that cease because of external factors such as running aground or being picked up. An accurate assessment of where drifters run aground would also allow the observations to be used to more accurately simulate the evolution of floating marine debris and to quantify globally which shores are most prone to the deposit of marine debris. While the drifter Data Assembly Center of the GDP provides a metadata file that includes cause of death, the identified cause for most drifters is simply “quit transmitting.” In this study it is shown that a significant fraction of these drifters likely ran aground or were picked up, and a statistical estimate that each drifter ran aground or was picked up is derived.

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