Scientia Marina, Vol 68, No 3 (2004)

Tracking a big anticyclonic eddy in the western Mediterranean Sea

Jordi Font
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CMIMA-CSIC, Spain

Jordi Isern-Fontanet
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CMIMA-CSIC, Spain

José De Jesus Salas
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CMIMA-CSIC, Spain


In May 1998 a big and deep open ocean anticyclonic eddy (AE 98-1) was sampled in the Algerian basin (western Mediterranean sea) in a region south of the Balearic islands. Fifteen surface Lagrangian buoys, tracked by satellite, were released across the eddy and were used for a few months to observe the continuity of the anticyclonic motion and the westward drift of the eddy. This kind of big and intense eddies in the Mediterranean can be detected by satellite altimeter radars. Using a new method, based on the Okubo-Weiss criterion, to identify mesoscale eddies in Sea Level Anomaly maps derived from measurements of the ERS and TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeters, an independent tracking of the same eddy was performed. There is a remarkable agreement between the two results despite the different nature of the information, mainly due to the fact that SLA maps contain interpolated and smoothed measurements while the drifter? trajectories are in situ data obtained from individual drifter fixes. The location of the eddy centre during two months with the two methods agrees within an average distance lower than the spatial resolution of the altimetric maps (0.2º). The size of the eddy, when it is possible to determine it, is also highly coincident in both cases (96.5% in diameter), and its average westwards translation speed is reasonably similar (24% lower from drifters). These results can be considered a good validation of the new tracking method in SLA maps in this specific case.


Mediterranean sea; Algerian basin; mesoscale eddies; Lagrangian drifters; satellite altimetry

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Copyright (c) 2004 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

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