Atmospheric forcing of the upper ocean transport in the Gulf of Mexico: From seasonal to diurnal scales

Falko Judt, Shuyi S Chen, Milan Curcic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) was an environmental disaster, which highlighted the urgent need to predict the transport and dispersion of hydrocarbon. Although the variability of the atmospheric forcing plays a major role in the upper ocean circulation and transport of the pollutants, the air-sea interaction on various time scales is not well understood. This study provides a comprehensive overview of the atmospheric forcing and upper ocean response in the GoM from seasonal to diurnal time scales, using climatologies derived from long-term observations, in situ observations from two field campaigns, and a coupled model. The atmospheric forcing in the GoM is characterized by striking seasonality. In the summer, the time-average large-scale forcing is weak, despite occasional extreme winds associated with hurricanes. In the winter, the atmospheric forcing is much stronger, and dominated by synoptic variability on time scales of 3–7 days associated with winter storms and cold air outbreaks. The diurnal cycle is more pronounced during the summer, when sea breeze circulations affect the coastal regions and nighttime wind maxima occur over the offshore waters. Realtime predictions from a high-resolution atmosphere-wave-ocean coupled model were evaluated for both summer and winter conditions during the Grand LAgrangian Deployment (GLAD) in July–August 2012 and the Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment (SCOPE) in November–December 2013. The model generally captured the variability of atmospheric forcing on all scales, but suffered from some systematic errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4416-4433
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • air-sea interaction
  • climatology
  • coupled model
  • multiscale variability
  • oil spill
  • wind forcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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