Assimilating Lagrangian data for parameter estimation in a multiple-inlet system Academic Article uri icon


  • Numerical models of ocean circulation often depend on parameters that must be tuned to match either results from laboratory experiments or field observations. This study demonstrates that an initial, suboptimal estimate of a parameter in a model of a small bay can be improved by assimilating observations of trajectories of passive drifters. The parameter of interest is the Manning's n coefficient of friction in a small inlet of the bay, which had been tuned to match velocity observations from 2011. In 2013, the geometry of the inlet had changed, and the friction parameter was no longer optimal. Results from synthetic experiments demonstrate that assimilation of drifter trajectories improves the estimate of n, both when the drifters are located in the same region as the parameter of interest and when the drifters are located in a different region of the bay. Real drifter trajectories from field experiments in 2013 also are assimilated, and results are compared with velocity observations. When the real drifters are located away from the region of interest, the results depend on the time interval (with respect to the full available trajectories) over which assimilation is performed. When the drifters are in the same region as the parameter of interest, the value of n estimated with assimilation yields improved estimates of velocity throughout the bay.

publication date

  • May 2017