Fusion of Lagrangian drifter data and numerical model outputs for improved assessment of turbulent dispersion
Abstract. Transport and dispersion processes in the ocean are crucial, as they determine the lifetime and fate of biological and chemical quantities drifting with ocean currents. Due to the complexity of the coastal ocean environment, numerical circulation models have difficulties to accurately simulate highly turbulent flows and dispersion processes, especially in highly energetic tidal basins such as the eastern English Channel. A method of improving the results of coastal circulation modeling and tracer dispersion in the Dover Strait is proposed. Surface current velocities derived from Lagrangian drifter measurements in November 2020 and May 2021 were optimally interpolated in time and space to constrain a high-resolution coastal circulation MARS model, with careful attention given to selecting ensemble members composing the model covariance matrix. The space-time velocity covariances derived from model simulations were utilized by the Optimal Interpolation algorithm to determine the most likely evolution of the velocity field under constraints provided by Lagrangian observations and their error statistics. The accuracy of the velocity field reconstruction was evaluated at each time step. The results of the fusion of model outputs with surface drifter velocity measurements show a significant improvement (by ~50 %) of the model capability to simulate the drift of passive tracers in the Dover Strait. Optimized velocity fields were used to quantify the absolute dispersion in the study area. The implications of these results are important, as they can be used to improve existing decision-making support tool or design new tools for monitoring the transport and dispersion in coastal ocean environment.
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