Statistical properties of the surface velocity field in the northern Gulf of Mexico sampled by GLAD drifters

A. J. Mariano, E. H. Ryan, H. S. Huntley, L. C. Laurindo, E. Coelho, A. Griffa, T. M. Özgökmen, M. Berta, D. Bogucki, S. S. Chen, M. Curcic, K. L. Drouin, M. Gough, B. K. Haus, A. C. Haza, P. Hogan, M. Iskandarani, G. Jacobs, A. D. Kirwan, N. LaxagueB. Lipphardt, M. G. Magaldi, G. Novelli, A. Reniers, J. M. Restrepo, C. Smith, A. Valle-Levinson, M. Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The Grand LAgrangian Deployment (GLAD) used multiscale sampling and GPS technology to observe time series of drifter positions with initial drifter separation of O(100 m) to O(10 km), and nominal 5 min sampling, during the summer and fall of 2012 in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Histograms of the velocity field and its statistical parameters are non-Gaussian; most are multimodal. The dominant periods for the surface velocity field are 1–2 days due to inertial oscillations, tides, and the sea breeze; 5–6 days due to wind forcing and submesoscale eddies; 9–10 days and two weeks or longer periods due to wind forcing and mesoscale variability, including the period of eddy rotation. The temporal e-folding scales of a fitted drifter velocity autocorrelation function are bimodal with time scales, 0.25–0.50 days and 0.9–1.4 days, and are the same order as the temporal e-folding scales of observed winds from nearby moored National Data Buoy Center stations. The Lagrangian integral time scales increase from coastal values of 8 h to offshore values of approximately 2 days with peak values of 3–4 days. The velocity variance is large, O(1)m2/s2, the surface velocity statistics are more anisotropic, and increased dispersion is observed at flow bifurcations. Horizontal diffusivity estimates are O(103)m2/s in coastal regions with weaker flow to O(105)m2/s in flow bifurcations, a strong jet, and during the passage of Hurricane Isaac. The Gulf of Mexico surface velocity statistics sampled by the GLAD drifters are a strong function of the feature sampled, topography, and wind forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5193-5216
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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