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Free Content Near-inertial and diurnal motions in the trajectories of mixed layer drifters

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We analyze the near-inertial/diurnal motions in the trajectories of surface mixed layer drifters in the California Current System between 19N and 36N. The observed near-inertial or diurnal oscillations are very intermittent in time and have a time scale of about 10 inertial periods. Using a simple slab model of wind-driven inertial currents, we show that their temporal variations are related to the fluctuations in the local wind stress field. Three events of strong (20 cm s−1) near-inertial/diurnal motions are studied in detail. Two events at the diurnal frequency occur on the continental shelf. For the first, the observed subinertial oscillations are interpreted as continental shelf waves generated by the diurnal tide currents and the local winds. For the second, observations are consistent with wind-driven internal waves. A third event of near-inertial oscillations appears for most of the drifters in the wake of a tropical storm. The vorticity of the background mesoscale circulation shifts the frequency of the wind-generated oscillations by as much as ±0.05 cpd.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1990-11-01

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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