Crossroads of the mesoscale circulation

Alberto Baudena, Enrico Ser-Giacomi, Cristóbal López, Emilio Hernández-García, Francesco d'Ovidio
2019 Journal of Marine Systems  
Quantifying the mechanisms of tracer dispersion in the ocean remains a central question in oceanography, for problems ranging from nutrient delivery to phytoplankton, to the early detection of contaminants. Most analyses have been based on Lagrangian concepts of transport, focusing on the identification of features minimizing fluid exchange among regions, or more recently on network tools which focus on connectivity and transport pathways. Neither of these approaches allows ranking the
more » ... cal sites of major water passage and selecting them so that they monitor waters coming from separate parts of the ocean. These are instead key criteria when deploying an observing network. Here we address this issue by estimating at any point the extent of the ocean surface which transits through it in a given time window. With such information we are able to rank the sites with major fluxes that intercept waters originating from different regions. We show that this allows us to optimize an observing network, where a set of sampling sites can be chosen for monitoring the largest flux of water dispersing out of a given region. When the analysis is performed backward in time, this method allows us to identify the major sources which feed a target region. The method is first applied to a minimalistic model of a mesoscale eddy field, and then to realistic satellite-derived ocean currents in the Kerguelen area. In this region we identify the optimal location of fixed stations capable of intercepting the trajectories of 43 surface drifters, along with statistics on the temporal persistence of the stations determined in this way. We then identify possible hotspots of micro-nutrient enrichment for the recurrent spring phytoplanktonic bloom occuring here. Promising applications to other fields, such as larval connectivity, marine spatial planning or contaminant detection, are then discussed.
doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2018.12.005 fatcat:g3f7dr2h7vguzc73edncehldky