Validation of FOAM near-surface ocean current forecasts using Lagrangian drifting buoys
Abstract. In this study, the quality of near-surface current forecasts from the FOAM ocean forecasting system is assessed using the trajectories of Lagrangian drifting buoys. A method is presented for deriving pseudo-Eulerian estimates of ocean currents from the positions of Surface Velocity Program drifters and the resulting data are compared to velocities observed by the global tropical moored buoy array. A quantitative analysis of the global FOAM velocities is performed for the period 2007 and 2008 using currents derived from over 3000 unique drifters (providing an average of 650 velocity observations per day). A potential bias is identified in the Southern Ocean which appears to be caused by wind-slip in the drifter dataset as a result of drogue loss. The drifter-derived currents are also used to show how the data assimilation scheme and a recent system upgrade impact upon the quality of FOAM current forecasts.