Extracting quasi-steady Lagrangian transport patterns from the ocean circulation: An application to the Gulf of Mexico

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Abstract

We construct a climatology of Lagrangian coherent structures (LCSs) - the concealed skeleton that shapes transport - with a twelve-year-long data-assimilative simulation of the sea-surface circulation in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Computed as time-mean Cauchy-Green strain tensorlines of the climatological velocity, the climatological LCSs (cLCSs) unveil recurrent Lagrangian circulation patterns. The cLCSs strongly constrain the ensemble-mean Lagrangian circulation of the instantaneous model velocity, showing that a climatological velocity can preserve meaningful transport information. The quasi-steady transport patterns revealed by the cLCSs agree well with aspects of the GoM circulation described in several previous observational and numerical studies. For example, the cLCSs identify regions of persistent isolation, and suggest that coastal regions previously identified as high-risk for pollution impact are regions of maximal attraction. We also show that cLCSs are remarkably accurate at identifying transport patterns observed during the Deepwater Horizon and Ixtoc oil spills, and during the Grand LAgrangian Deployment (GLAD) experiment. Thus it is shown that computing cLCSs is an efficient and meaningful way of synthesizing vast amounts of Lagrangian information. The cLCS method confirms previous GoM studies, and contributes to our understanding by revealing the persistent nature of the dynamics and kinematics treated therein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5218
JournalScientific Reports
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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