Initial evaluations of a Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean ocean forecast system in the context of the Deepwater Horizon disaster
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In response to the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) oil spill event in 2010, the Naval Oceanographic Office deployed a nowcast-forecast system covering the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent Caribbean Sea that was designated Americas Seas, or AMSEAS, which is documented in this manuscript. The DwH disaster provided a challenge to the application of available ocean-forecast capabilities, and also generated a historically large observational dataset. AMSEAS was evaluated by four complementary efforts, each with somewhat different aims and approaches: a university research consortium within an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) testbed; a petroleum industry consortium, the Gulf of Mexico 3-D Operational Ocean Forecast System Pilot Prediction Project (GOMEX-PPP); a British Petroleum (BP) funded project at the Northern Gulf Institute in response to the oil spill; and the Navy itself. Validation metrics are presented in these different projects for water temperature and salinity profiles, sea surface wind, sea surface temperature, sea surface height, and volume transport, for different forecast time scales. The validation found certain geographic and time biases/errors, and small but systematic improvements relative to earlier regional and global modeling efforts. On the basis of these positive AMSEAS validation studies, an oil spill transport simulation was conducted using archived AMSEAS nowcasts to examine transport into the estuaries east of the Mississippi River. This effort captured the influences of Hurricane Alex and a non-tropical cyclone off the Louisiana coast, both of which pushed oil into the western Mississippi Sound, illustrating the importance of the atmospheric influence on oil spills such as DwH.
KeywordsGulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon ocean forecasting skill assessment
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