Submesoscale dispersion of surface drifters in a coastal sea near offshore wind farms


We analyse relative dispersion of surface drifters released as pairs (6 instances) or triplets (2 instances) during three field experiments in the German Bight in close proximity to wind farms. Drifter pairs can be classified in a remarkably clear way into those with spatial separation growing either exponentially or non-monotonously. There is some tentative evidence that exponential relative dispersion growth rates preferably occur for drifter pairs that are most exposed to the possible influence of a wind farm. Kinetic energy spectra and velocity structure functions suggest that turbulent energy could be injected by tides, possibly also via an interaction between tidal currents and wind turbine towers. Applicability of inertial range turbulence theory, however, can be doubted given distinct peaks of overtides observed in velocity power spectra. More comprehensive studies would be needed to better separate submesoscale effects of wind farms, tides and possibly baroclinic instabilities on observed drifter behaviour in a complex coastal environment.
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