A Comparison of ship drift, drifting buoy, and current meter mooring velocities in the Pacific South Equatorial Current Academic Article uri icon


  • In this note we compare mean seasonal cycles of zonal and meridional velocity in the Pacific South Equatorial Current based on current meter mooring data, drifting buoy data, and ship drift data. Monthly averages of ship drift and drifting buoy data were computed over 2-degrees latitude by 10-degrees longitude rectangles centered at the positions of multiyear current meter moorings near 0-degrees, 110-degrees-W, and 0-degrees, 140-degrees-W. All three representations of the flow field show the basic character of the annual mean and its variations, provided that the sampling characteristics associated with each measurement technique are taken into account. In particular we find that more than 15 days of drifter data (regardless of year) are required on a 2-degrees latitude by 10-degrees longitude basis to produce monthly mean estimates that agree with moored estimates to within about 5-10 cm s-1 rms. We also infer that windage affects climatological monthly mean ship drift velocities, although uncertainties in the data limit a precise determination of the windage magnitude. An upper bound appears to be about 3% of the surface wind speed, though the actual effect of windage may be considerably smaller.

publication date

  • January 15, 1991