Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam

Eric A. D'Asaro, Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Jody M. Klymak, Jeroen Molemaker, Guillaume Novelli, Cédric M. Guigand, Angelique C. Haza, Brian K Haus, Edward H. Ryan, Gregg A. Jacobs, Helga S. Huntley, Nathan J.M. Laxague, Shuyi S Chen, Falco Judt, James C. McWilliams, Roy Barkan, A. D. Kirwan, Andrew C. Poje, Tamay M Ozgokmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Floating oil, plastics, and marine organisms are continually redistributed by ocean surface currents. Prediction of their resulting distribution on the surface is a fundamental, long-standing, and practically important problem. The dominant paradigm is dispersion within the dynamical context of a nondivergent flow: objects initially close together will on average spread apart but the area of surface patches of material does not change. Although this paradigm is likely valid at mesoscales, larger than 100 km in horizontal scale, recent theoretical studies of submesoscales (less than ∼10 km) predict strong surface convergences and downwelling associated with horizontal density fronts and cyclonic vortices. Here we show that such structures can dramatically concentrate floating material. More than half of an array of ∼200 surface drifters covering ∼20 × 20 km2 converged into a 60 × 60 m region within a week, a factor of more than 105 decrease in area, before slowly dispersing. As predicted, the convergence occurred at density fronts and with cyclonic vorticity. A zipperlike structure may play an important role. Cyclonic vorticity and vertical velocity reached 0.001 s-1 and 0.01 ms-1, respectively, which is much larger than usually inferred. This suggests a paradigm in which nearby objects form submesoscale clusters, and these clusters then spread apart. Together, these effects set both the overall extent and the finescale texture of a patch of floating material. Material concentrated at submesoscale convergences can create unique communities of organisms, amplify impacts of toxic material, and create opportunities to more efficiently recover such material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1162-1167
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 6 2018

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density front
ocean
vorticity
toxic material
drifter
downwelling
theoretical study
vortex
sea surface
plastic
texture
material
oil
prediction

Keywords

  • Dispersion
  • Eddy
  • Ocean
  • Submesoscale
  • Vertical velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

D'Asaro, E. A., Shcherbina, A. Y., Klymak, J. M., Molemaker, J., Novelli, G., Guigand, C. M., ... Ozgokmen, T. M. (2018). Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(6), 1162-1167. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718453115

Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam. / D'Asaro, Eric A.; Shcherbina, Andrey Y.; Klymak, Jody M.; Molemaker, Jeroen; Novelli, Guillaume; Guigand, Cédric M.; Haza, Angelique C.; Haus, Brian K; Ryan, Edward H.; Jacobs, Gregg A.; Huntley, Helga S.; Laxague, Nathan J.M.; Chen, Shuyi S; Judt, Falco; McWilliams, James C.; Barkan, Roy; Kirwan, A. D.; Poje, Andrew C.; Ozgokmen, Tamay M.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 115, No. 6, 06.02.2018, p. 1162-1167.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

D'Asaro, EA, Shcherbina, AY, Klymak, JM, Molemaker, J, Novelli, G, Guigand, CM, Haza, AC, Haus, BK, Ryan, EH, Jacobs, GA, Huntley, HS, Laxague, NJM, Chen, SS, Judt, F, McWilliams, JC, Barkan, R, Kirwan, AD, Poje, AC & Ozgokmen, TM 2018, 'Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 115, no. 6, pp. 1162-1167. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718453115
D'Asaro EA, Shcherbina AY, Klymak JM, Molemaker J, Novelli G, Guigand CM et al. Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2018 Feb 6;115(6):1162-1167. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718453115
D'Asaro, Eric A. ; Shcherbina, Andrey Y. ; Klymak, Jody M. ; Molemaker, Jeroen ; Novelli, Guillaume ; Guigand, Cédric M. ; Haza, Angelique C. ; Haus, Brian K ; Ryan, Edward H. ; Jacobs, Gregg A. ; Huntley, Helga S. ; Laxague, Nathan J.M. ; Chen, Shuyi S ; Judt, Falco ; McWilliams, James C. ; Barkan, Roy ; Kirwan, A. D. ; Poje, Andrew C. ; Ozgokmen, Tamay M. / Ocean convergence and the dispersion of flotsam. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2018 ; Vol. 115, No. 6. pp. 1162-1167.
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