Articles | Volume 19, issue 1
31 Jan 2001
 | 31 Jan 2001

Drifter dispersion in the Adriatic Sea: Lagrangian data and chaotic model

G. Lacorata, E. Aurell, and A. Vulpiani

Abstract. We analyze characteristics of drifter trajectories from the Adriatic Sea with recently introduced nonlinear dynamics techniques. We discuss how in quasi-enclosed basins, relative dispersion as a function of time, a standard analysis tool in this context, may give a distorted picture of the dynamics. We further show that useful information may be obtained by using two related non-asymptotic indicators, the Finite-Scale Lyapunov Exponent (FSLE) and the Lagrangian Structure Function (LSF), which both describe intrinsic physical properties at a given scale. We introduce a simple chaotic model for drifter motion in this system, and show by comparison with the model that Lagrangian dispersion is mainly driven by advection at sub-basin scales until saturation sets in.

Key words. Oceanography: General (marginal and semi-closed seas) – Oceanography: Physical (turbulence, diffusion, and mixing processes; upper ocean processes)