Mediterranean Lagrangian drifters data from 1998 to 2022

Date 2022-09-19
Temporal extent 1998-05-01 -2021-11-30
Author(s) Ribotti AlbertoORCID1, Bussani AntonioORCID2, Menna MilenaORCID2, Satta AndreaORCID1, Sorgente RobertoORCID1, Cucco AndreaORCID1, Gerin RiccardoORCID2
Contributor(s) Borghini MirenoORCID
Affiliation(s) 1 : Istituto per lo studio degli impatti Antropici e Sostenibilità in ambiente marino (IAS) of CNR, 09170 Oristano, Italy
2 : Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale-OGS, Borgo Grotta Gigante, 42/c - 34010 Sgonico (Trieste), Italy
DOI 10.17882/90537
Publisher SEANOE
Keyword(s) drifter tracks, dynamics, Mediterranean, surface currents

The CNR realised over 138 experiments in the Mediterranean basin with surface Lagrangian drifters in 12 years, not continuously, between July 1998 and April 2022 (month of the last recovery), at coastal and offshore level. Lagrangian drifters produced and sold by 4 different enterprises have been used in the years, with different characteristics in data transmission, structure, repeatability of the experiments, dimensions, batteries, management of the experiments. The four drifters were used in different periods (see the table):

- in 1998-1999 the Coastal Lagrangian Drifter (CLD), by Italian company InnoTech S.c.r.l., designed just for coastal use with GPS transmission of its position, by a Trimble Lassen™ SK8, at a frequency of 5 minutes by a GSM mobile phone. The CLD had a housing in PVC with electronic unit, rechargeable battery pack and antennas at its top. Its dimensions were 140 cm high x 27 cm in diameter with a weight of 12.5 Kg. A drogue was used below the CLD;

- in 2009-2010 the ArgoDrifter or CODE drifter by Technocean (FL, USA) consisting in a white cylinder of 110 cm height x 15 cm in diameter with four blue sails placed at 90°, for a total area of about 25 m2. Its not rechargeable batteries permitted transmissions till a year by an ARGOS satellite transmitter, a GPS for its localisation and a temperature sensor. Its position at sea was given by both satellite triangulation and GPS;

- in 2014 the Iridium Ocean Drifters (ODi) by the Spanish Albatros Marine Technology SA were small, low-cost, and compact surface buoys localised by a GPS module based on Iridium satellite data transmission system (Short Burst Data - SBD). Its housing were two identical halves of a spherical drifter, sealed with an O-ring of 20 cm in diameter and 3 Kg of weight. Drogues were used below drifters;

- in 2015-2022 coastal and offshore Nomad drifters by the Spanish SouthTEK Sensing Technologies S.L. were coastal GPRS, namely the Coastal Nomad, and offshore satellite, namely the Offshore Nomad. Both types were made in plastic, yellow colour, 72 cm in height x 22 cm in diameter and 2.895 Kg of weight. The lithium rechargeable batteries allowed operations up to 7 days to the GPRS and several months to the satellite drifters. In the water, only 16 cm of the cylindrical head were over the sea surface. The Nomad drifters were of different types: LCA (GPRS), LCE (satellite), LCH (hybrid, GPRS and satellite), LCF (satellite with temperature sensor).

See the list of experiments per year in the Table

Immediately any acquisition drifter data were pre-processed and repeated positions or wrong date/time, usually a failure of GPS receiver and visible on plotted tracks, were manually deleted. This was followed by an editing procedure implemented at OGS (Gerin and Bussani, 2011; Menna et al., 2017) starting with the retrieve of the deployment information then filled into the OGS PostgreSQL database, enriched with other important metadata as the type and characteristics of the instruments, the owner, the principal investigator. Here location errors were also replaced with NaNs based on the evaluation of different potential origins of error like positions outside the Mediterranean or on land, duplicated data or data acquired outside the date/time of the experiment or wrong velocities.

Further erroneous data remained were then manually removed through a visual check. In some cases, the drifter trajectory was considered as two different deployments and split into more segments due to important temporal gaps or acquisition frequency modifications during the experiment. A new recovery/deployment information were included in the database and the automatic editing procedure is relaunched.

A following step was the interpolation of edited data at uniform intervals using a kriging optimal interpolation method (Hansen and Poulain, 1996): at 1-hour intervals data with a frequency in acquisition between a few minutes and 2 hours; at 3-h intervals with frequency till 6 hours; at 6-h intervals with frequency higher than 6 hours. The velocities were calculated as finite differences of the interpolated position.

At the end, from the 366 drifter tracks the shortest (just a few data long) were deleted, not permitting a good interpolation, then a final dataset of 204 interpolated drifter tracks is finally available.

The presented dataset is composed of the interpolated data in NetCDF files which include the time, latitude, longitude, zonal and meridional speed, and metadata. To be coherent with other dataset released by OGS other 3 variables (Drogue, SST and Volt) are included in the files although they are all set to NaNs as the related information is not available for this dataset.


Gerin, R. and Bussani, A.: Nuova procedura di editing automatico dei dati drifter impiegata su oceano per MyOcean e prodotti web in near-real time e delay mode, REL. OGS 2011/55 OGA 20 SIRE, Trieste, Italy, 13 pp., 2011

Hansen, D.V. and Poulain, P.-M.: Quality control and interpolations of WOCE-TOGA drifter data, J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol., 13, 900–909, 10.1175/1520-0426(1996)013<0900:QCAIOW> 2.0.CO;2,  1996.

Menna, M., Gerin, R., Bussani, A., Poulain, P.-M.: The OGS Mediterranean Drifter Dataset: 1986-2016, Rel. OGS 2017/92 OCE 28 MAOS, Trieste, Italy, 34 pp., 2017.

Licence CC-BY
Utilisation These data are published without any warranty: the user assumes all risk arising from his/her use of these data. These data are intended to be quality controlled, but it is possible that they contain errors. It is the unique responsibility of the user to assess if the data are appropriate for his/her use, and to interpret them accordingly. We welcome users to ask questions and report problems to the contact addresses listed in the data files
Acknowledgements The data in this dataset have been collected in the framework of several national and European projects, i.e the Italian MATTM project SOS-BONIFACIO (prot. DPN-2009-0001027 of 20/01/2009), the Italian MIUR project PON TESSA (agreement PON01_02823), the Italian MIUR flagship project RITMARE (under the NRP 2011-2013, approved by the CIPE Resolution 2/2011 of 23.03.2011), the Italian MATTM project SOS-Piattaforme & Impatti offshore (Reg. Uff. U. 0000939.17-01-2017), 2014 - 2020 INTERREG V-A Italy - France (Maritime) project SICOMAR plus (IAS CNR Prot. 0001156/2018 of 12/12/2018).
Sensor metadata

MetaVariable which include several information among all:

Drifter type; Drifter characteristics; Funding project; Owner; Principal investigator.


Time in days from 1 January 1950; Longitude [degrees_east]; Latitude [degrees_north]; Zonal speed (cm/s); Meridional speed (cm/s); Drogue (indicates the presence of the drogue; applicable in case of SVP drifters) set NaNs; SST (Sea Surface Temperature) set NaNs; Volt set NaN

File Size Format Processing Access
The 366 drifter tracks from over 138 experiments in the Mediterranean basin with surface Lagrangian drifters in 12 years, between 1998 and 2022 873 KB NC, NetCDF Processed data Open access
Top of the page

How to cite 

Ribotti Alberto, Bussani Antonio, Menna Milena, Satta Andrea, Sorgente Roberto, Cucco Andrea, Gerin Riccardo (2022). Mediterranean Lagrangian drifters data from 1998 to 2022. SEANOE.