Ocean Surface Drifters Released off the Oregon Coast

Need more information?  Contact Jack Barth at COAS

Related links:
Drifter home Drifter Data Most recent drifter plots Wind-driven circulation off Oregon Seasonal example plots Boy Scout project Drifters in the News Publications

Introduction to the Drifter Project

Printable version of this introduction (COAS Research Note)

Ocean currents are important for several reasons. Shallow currents transport heat, salt, plankton, sediments and material introduced by man (e.g., pollutants). Knowledge of the upper-ocean currents is important for navigation and for search and rescue. The ocean currents off Oregon vary seasonally and can also vary from year to year because of, for example, El Nino and La Nina. For several years, Professor Jack Barth has been releasing surface drifters at regular intervals off Newport to track the ocean currents in Oregon coastal waters.

A satellite-tracked drifter with surface float and a canvas "holey sock" drogue used to anchor the drifter to the flow.

Drifters consist of a surface float carrying electronics and a large canvas drogue to insure that the drifter tracks the water rather than being blown by wind. The electronics transmit a signal to satellites from which the drifter's location is determined. The drifter also measures sea-surface temperature. Location and temperature are relayed over the Internet to scientists' computers in near real time. Drifters, which may transmit for two to four years, have been released from the R/V Wecoma off Newport and Cape Blanco, Oregon, since 1994. Regular deployments in April, July and September of each year began in 1998.

A satellite-tracked drifter with surface float and canvas drogue being deployed off the R/V Wecoma.

Paths of surface drifters released off the Oregon coast in spring and early summer (red, yellow and brown), late summer and fall (green and light blue), and winter (dark blue).

This research is part of the GLOBEC Northeast Pacific Program supported by the National Science Foundation grant OCE-0000733 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants NA67RJ0151 and NA86OP0589. Previous support was provided by NSF grants OCE-9314370 and OCE-9730639.