Relative dispersion in the Liguro-Provençal basin: From sub-mesoscale to mesoscale

K. Schroeder, A. C. Haza, A. Griffa, T. M. Özgökmen, P. M. Poulain, R. Gerin, G. Peggion, M. Rixen

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51 Scopus citations


Relative dispersion in the Liguro-Provençal basin (a subregion of the Mediterranean Sea) is investigated using clusters of surface drifters deployed during two Marine Rapid Environment Assessment (MREA) experiments covering different months in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The clusters have initial radii of less than 1km, or an order of magnitude below a typical deformation radius (approximately 10-20km). The data set consists of 45 original pairs and more than 50 total pairs (including chance ones) in the spatial range between 1 and 200km. Relative dispersion is estimated using the mean square separation of particle pairs and the Finite Scale Lyapunov Exponents (FSLEs). The two metrics show broadly consistent results, indicating in particular a clear exponential behaviour with an e-folding time scale between 0.5 and 1 days, or Lyapunov exponent λ in the range of 0.7-1 days-1. The exponential phase extends for 4-7 days in time and between 1 and 10-20km in separation space. To our knowledge, this is only the third time that an exponential regime is observed in the world ocean from drifter data. This result suggests that relative dispersion in the Liguro-Provençal basin is nonlocal, namely controlled mainly by mesoscale dynamics, and that the effects of the sub-mesoscale motions are negligible in comparison. NCOM model results are used to complement the data and to quantify errors arising from the sparse sampling in the observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-228
Number of pages20
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Coastal transport.
  • Dispersion
  • Sub-mesoscale
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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