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Early Dynamics of Deep Blue XBT Probes

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A new study funded by CPO’s Climate Observations Division was recently published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. The paper, “Early Dynamics of Deep Blue XBT Probes,” focuses on the use of  expendable bathythermographs (XBTs)to monitor global ocean heat content, variability of ocean currents, and meridional heat transports.


In the XBT temperature profile, the depth is estimated from the time of descent in the water using a fall-rate equation. There are two main errors in these profiles: temperature and depth errors. The reduction of error in the estimates of the depth allows a corresponding reduction in the errors in the computations in which XBTs are used. Two experiments were carried out to study the effect of the deployment height on the depth estimates of Deep Blue XBT probes. During these experiments, XBTs were deployed from different heights. The motion of the probes after entering the water was analyzed to determine the position and the velocity of the probes as a function of time, which was compared to that obtained using the Hanawa et al. fall-rate equation. Results showed a difference or offset between the experimentally observed depths and those derived from Hanawa et al. This offset was found to be linked to the deployment height. To eliminate the offset in the fall-rate equation for XBTs deployed from different heights, a methodology is proposed here based on the initial velocities of the probes in the water (or deployment height). Results indicate that the depth estimates in the profiles need to be corrected for an offset, which in addition to having a launch height dependence is time dependent during the first 1.5 s of descent ofthe probe in the water, and constant after that.

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