Morey, S. L., Wienders, N., Dukhovskoy, D. S., & Bourassa, M. A. (2018). Impact of Stokes Drift on Measurements of Surface Currents from Drifters and HF Radar. In
American Geophysical Union (Vol. Fall Meeting).
Abstract: Concurrent measurements by surface drifters of different configurations and HF radar reveal substantial differences in estimates of the near-surface seawater velocity. On average, speeds of small ultra-thin (5 cm) drifters are significantly greater than co-located drifters with a traditional shallow drogue design, while velocity measurements from the drogued drifters closely match HF radar velocity estimates. Analysis of directional wave spectra measurements from a nearby buoy reveals that Stokes drift accounts for much of the difference between the velocity measurements from the drogued drifters and the ultra-thin drifters, except during times of wave breaking. Under wave breaking conditions, the difference between the ultra-thin drifter velocity and the drogued drifter velocity is much less than the computed Stokes drift. The results suggest that surface currents measured by more common approaches or simulated in models may underrepresent the velocity at the very surface of the ocean that is important for determining momentum and enthalpy fluxes between the ocean and atmosphere and for estimating transport of material at the ocean surface. However, simply adding an estimate of Stokes drift may also not be an appropriate method for estimating the true surface velocity from models or measurements from drogued drifters or HF radar under all sea conditions.