2010 oil spill: trajectory projections based on ensemble drifter analyses

Abstract

An accurate method for long-term (weeks to months) projections of oil spill trajectories based on multi-year ensemble analyses of simulated surface and subsurface (z = −800 m) drifters released at the northern Gulf of Mexico spill site is demonstrated during the 2010 oil spill. The simulation compares well with satellite images of the actual oil spill which show that the surface spread of oil was mainly confined to the northern shelf and slope of the Gulf of Mexico, with some (more limited) spreading over the north/northeastern face of the Loop Current, as well as northwestward toward the Louisiana–Texas shelf. At subsurface, the ensemble projection shows drifters spreading south/southwestward, and this tendency agrees well with ADCP current measurements near the spill site during the months of May–July, which also show southward mean currents. An additional model analysis during the spill period (Apr–Jul/2010) confirms the above ensemble projection. The 2010 analysis confirms that the reason for the surface oil spread to be predominantly confined to the northern Gulf shelf and slope is because the 2010 wind was more southerly compared to climatology and also because a cyclone existed north of the Loop Current which moreover was positioned to the south of the spilled site.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the reviewers and the editor (Huijie Xue) for providing many useful comments. Kirk Bryan initiated our interests in the ensemble analyses. We thank also Walter Johnson and Alexis Lugo-Fernandez for their inputs. YLC received a fellowship from the Graduate Student Study Abroad Program (NSC97-2917-I-003-103) of the National Science Council of Taiwan. The model analysis data reported herein would not have been possible without years of supports from BOEMRE. Computing was done at NOAA/GFDL, Princeton.

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Correspondence to Leo Oey.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on 2nd International Workshop on Modelling the Ocean 2010

Responsible Editor: Huijie Xue

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Chang, Y., Oey, L., Xu, F. et al. 2010 oil spill: trajectory projections based on ensemble drifter analyses. Ocean Dynamics 61, 829–839 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10236-011-0397-4

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Keywords

  • Oil spill
  • Drifters
  • Ensemble analysis
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Loop Current