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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 23, issue 4
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 23, 159–173, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-23-159-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 23, 159–173, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-23-159-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 05 Jul 2016

Research article | 05 Jul 2016

Detecting and tracking eddies in oceanic flow fields: a Lagrangian descriptor based on the modulus of vorticity

Rahel Vortmeyer-Kley1, Ulf Gräwe2,3, and Ulrike Feudel1 Rahel Vortmeyer-Kley et al.
  • 1Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment, Theoretical Physics/Complex Systems, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany
  • 2Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany
  • 3Institute of Meteorology and Climatology, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hanover, Germany

Abstract. Since eddies play a major role in the dynamics of oceanic flows, it is of great interest to detect them and gain information about their tracks, their lifetimes and their shapes. We present a Lagrangian descriptor based on the modulus of vorticity to construct an eddy tracking tool. In our approach we denote an eddy as a rotating region in the flow possessing an eddy core corresponding to a local maximum of the Lagrangian descriptor and enclosed by pieces of manifolds of distinguished hyperbolic trajectories (eddy boundary). We test the performance of the eddy tracking tool based on this Lagrangian descriptor using an convection flow of four eddies, a synthetic vortex street and a velocity field of the western Baltic Sea. The results for eddy lifetime and eddy shape are compared to the results obtained with the Okubo–Weiss parameter, the modulus of vorticity and an eddy tracking tool used in oceanography. We show that the vorticity-based Lagrangian descriptor estimates lifetimes closer to the analytical results than any other method. Furthermore we demonstrate that eddy tracking based on this descriptor is robust with respect to certain types of noise, which makes it a suitable method for eddy detection in velocity fields obtained from observation.

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Since eddies play a major role in the dynamics of oceanic flows, it is of great interest to gain information about their tracks, lifetimes and shapes. We develop an eddy tracking tool based on structures in the flow with collecting (attracting) or separating (repelling) properties. In test cases mimicking oceanic flows it yields eddy lifetimes close to the analytical ones. It even provides a detailed view of the dynamics that can be useful to gain more insight into eddy dynamics in oceanic flows.
Since eddies play a major role in the dynamics of oceanic flows, it is of great interest to gain...
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