Sensitive dependence of trajectories on tracer seeding positions – coherent structures in German Bight backward drift simulations


Backward drift simulations can aid the interpretation of in situ monitoring data. Some trajectories, however, are sensitive to even small changes of the tracer release position. A corresponding spread of backward simulations implies convergence in the forward passage of time. Such uncertainty about the probed water body's origin complicates the interpretation of measurements. This study examines surface drift simulations in the German Bight (North Sea). Lines across which drift behaviour changes non-smoothly are obtained as ridges in the fields of the finite-time Lyapunov exponent (FTLE), a parameter used in dynamical systems theory to identify Lagrangian coherent structures (LCS). Results are shown to closely resemble those obtained considering a) two-particle relative dispersion and b) the average divergence of Eulerian velocities that tracers experience. Structures observed in simulated sea surface temperature and salinity further corroborate the FTLE results.
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