Near-Surface Current Measurements in the Gulf Stream Using an Upward-Looking Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler

William E. Johns Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Division of Meteorology & Physical Oceanography, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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Abstract

During November 1986, a 6-day record was collected from a 150 kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) mounted in the upward-looking mode on a subsurface mooring in the Gulf Stream near Cape Hatteras. The flotation unit used for the ADCP was a newly developed streamlined float, designed to minimize the effects of drag-induced tilt and high-frequency buoy motion on the range and precision of the Doppler measurements. The overall performance of the float was found to be excellent, with a mean tilt of less than 2° in up to 2 kt of current and a high apparent stability to vortex-induced oscillations. As a result, good velocity data were obtained to within 30 m of the surface from a mean depth of 375 m. A comparison of the near-field ADCP velocity data with a conventional Aanderra current meter moored 20 m below the ADCP yielded mean and root-mean-square speed and direction differences of 1.0 ± 3.7 cm s−1 and 0.5 ± 2.9°, respectively. Also, a comparison with Pegasus velocity profiles taken within 1 n mi of the mooring site showed qualitatively good agreement, with the ADCP reproducing well the small-scale vertical structure. Significant fluctuations in the vertical component were also observed, related to diurnal migration of biological scatterers, with vertical “speeds” often in excess of 3–4 cm s−1.

Abstract

During November 1986, a 6-day record was collected from a 150 kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) mounted in the upward-looking mode on a subsurface mooring in the Gulf Stream near Cape Hatteras. The flotation unit used for the ADCP was a newly developed streamlined float, designed to minimize the effects of drag-induced tilt and high-frequency buoy motion on the range and precision of the Doppler measurements. The overall performance of the float was found to be excellent, with a mean tilt of less than 2° in up to 2 kt of current and a high apparent stability to vortex-induced oscillations. As a result, good velocity data were obtained to within 30 m of the surface from a mean depth of 375 m. A comparison of the near-field ADCP velocity data with a conventional Aanderra current meter moored 20 m below the ADCP yielded mean and root-mean-square speed and direction differences of 1.0 ± 3.7 cm s−1 and 0.5 ± 2.9°, respectively. Also, a comparison with Pegasus velocity profiles taken within 1 n mi of the mooring site showed qualitatively good agreement, with the ADCP reproducing well the small-scale vertical structure. Significant fluctuations in the vertical component were also observed, related to diurnal migration of biological scatterers, with vertical “speeds” often in excess of 3–4 cm s−1.

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