Observing the ice-covered Weddell Gyre with profiling floats: position uncertainties and correlation statistics

Chamberlain, P, Talley LD, Mazloff M, Riser S, Speer K, Gray AR, Schwartzman A.  2018.  Observing the ice-covered Weddell Gyre with profiling floats: position uncertainties and correlation statistics. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

Date Published:



Argo-type profiling floats do not receive satellite positioning while under sea ice. Common practice is to approximate unknown positions by linearly interpolating latitude-longitude between known positions before and after ice cover, although it has been suggested that some improvement may be obtained by interpolating along contours of planetary-geostrophic potential vorticity. Profiles with linearly interpolated positions represent 16% of the Southern Ocean Argo dataset; consequences arising from this approximation have not been quantified. Using three distinct datasets from the Weddell Gyre - 10 day satellite-tracked Argo floats, daily-tracked RAFOS-enabled floats, and a particle release simulation in the Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE) - we perform a data withholding experiment to assess position uncertainty in latitude-longitude and potential vorticity coordinates as a function of time since last fix. A spatial correlation analysis using the float data provides temperature and salinity uncertainty estimates as a function of distance error. Combining the spatial correlation scales and the position uncertainty, we estimate uncertainty in temperature and salinity as a function of duration of position loss. Maximum position uncertainty for interpolation during 8 months without position data is 116 ± 148 km for latitude-longitude and 92 ± 121 km for potential vorticity coordinates. The estimated maximum uncertainty in local temperature and salinity over the entire 2,000 m profiles during 8 months without position data is 0.66 ° C and 0.15 psu in the upper 300 m and 0.16 ° C and 0.01 psu below 300 m.