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Tropical Pacific Drifting Buoys

Rick Lumpkin / Mayra Pazos, AOML, Miami

MAY 2009

During May 2009, 359 satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys, 70% with subsurface drogues attached for measuring mixed layer currents, were reporting from the tropical Pacific. Four drifters at 150-160W, 3-6N, exhibited strong (30-60 cm/s) eastward anomalies; elsewhere, the major currents exhibited weak (0-10 cm/s) westward anomalies compared to May climatology. Most drifters away from the northwest part of the basin measured SST at or above normal May values, with anomalies of 0 to +1.5C. Warm anomalies were especially prevalent in the southeast tropical Pacific. Cold anomalies (-0.5C to -3.0C) were measured by many drifters in the northwest, north of 20N and west of 170W. These SST anomaly patterns have persisted over the previous several months.

FIGURE A1.1 a) Top: Movements of drifting buoys in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The linear segments of each trajectory represent a one week displacement. Trajectories of buoys which have lost their subsurface drogues are gray; those with drogues are blue. b) Middle: Monthly mean currents calculated from all buoys 1993-2002 (gray), and currents measured by the drogued buoys this month (black) smoothed by an optimal filter. c) Bottom: Anomalies from the climatological monthly mean currents for this month.

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Page Last Modified: June 2009
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