A minimal Maxey-Riley model for the drift of Sargassum rafts

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5 Scopus citations


Inertial particles (i.e. with mass and of finite size) immersed in a fluid in motion are unable to adapt their velocities to the carrying flow and thus they have been the subject of much interest in fluid mechanics. In this paper we consider an ocean setting with inertial particles elastically connected forming a network that floats at the interface with the atmosphere. The network evolves according to a recently derived and validated Maxey-Riley equation for inertial particle motion in the ocean. We rigorously show that, under sufficiently calm wind conditions, rotationally coherent quasigeostrophic vortices (which have material boundaries that resist outward filamentation) always possess finite-time attractors for elastic networks if they are anticyclonic, while if they are cyclonic provided that the networks are sufficiently stiff. This result is supported numerically under more general wind conditions and, most importantly, is consistent with observations of rafts of pelagic Sargassum, for which the elastic inertial networks represent a minimal model. Furthermore, our finding provides an effective mechanism for the long range transport of Sargassum, and thus for its connectivity between accumulation regions and remote sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA8
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Chaotic advection
  • Ocean processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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