Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Nan D. Walker, Chet T. Pilley, Vandana V. Raghunathan, Eurico J. D'Sa, Robert R. Leben, Nicholas G. Hoffmann, Peter J. Brickley, Patrice D. Coholan, Neha Sharma, Hans C Graber, Raymond E. Turner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest in U.S. history, highlights the environmental risks inherent in deepwater drilling. These risks were mitigated by rapid access to real-time satellite measurements from passive (optical, IR) and active (synthetic aperture radar, altimetry) sensors. This study employed satellite data, in tandem with in situ current and wind measurements, to track surface oil and to better understand the causes for observed large-scalemotions during the 84 day episode. The analysis revealed the merger of three cyclonic eddies along the Loop Current's (LC's) northern margin, ultimately forming a larger and more vigorous cyclonic eddy, measuring 280 × 130 km on 18 May. This larger cyclonic eddy, in tandem with a smaller anticyclonic eddy and a LC meander, controlled themotion of the oil/dispersant mixture into deepwater (maximum current speed of 2.25 m s-1), tripling the area of surface oiling from 9623 to 33,575 km2. Two main events limited the flow of oil to the Florida Straits, the accumulation of oil within the merged eddy and the fact that this eddy did not move substantially for several months. The observed offshore entrainment of oil toward the LC was successfully hindcast using a particle-tracking model based on geostrophic currents computed from satellite altimetry. This assessment of circulation processes may help to advance numerical circulation modeling efforts in this region of rapid current variability in support of safer deepwater drilling in the northern Gulf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMonitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise
Publisherwiley
Pages103-116
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781118666753, 9780875904856
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 21 2013

Fingerprint

Gulf of Mexico
oils
vortices
drilling
satellite altimetry
wind measurement
altimetry
meanders
straits
gulfs
entrainment
synthetic aperture radar
horizon
margins
histories
causes
sensors

Keywords

  • BP oil spill motion
  • Cyclone merger
  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • Loop Current circulation
  • Loop Current frontal eddies
  • Satellite tracking of oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

Walker, N. D., Pilley, C. T., Raghunathan, V. V., D'Sa, E. J., Leben, R. R., Hoffmann, N. G., ... Turner, R. E. (2013). Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. In Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise (pp. 103-116). wiley. https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GM001120

Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. / Walker, Nan D.; Pilley, Chet T.; Raghunathan, Vandana V.; D'Sa, Eurico J.; Leben, Robert R.; Hoffmann, Nicholas G.; Brickley, Peter J.; Coholan, Patrice D.; Sharma, Neha; Graber, Hans C; Turner, Raymond E.

Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise. wiley, 2013. p. 103-116.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Walker, ND, Pilley, CT, Raghunathan, VV, D'Sa, EJ, Leben, RR, Hoffmann, NG, Brickley, PJ, Coholan, PD, Sharma, N, Graber, HC & Turner, RE 2013, Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. in Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise. wiley, pp. 103-116. https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GM001120
Walker ND, Pilley CT, Raghunathan VV, D'Sa EJ, Leben RR, Hoffmann NG et al. Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. In Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise. wiley. 2013. p. 103-116 https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GM001120
Walker, Nan D. ; Pilley, Chet T. ; Raghunathan, Vandana V. ; D'Sa, Eurico J. ; Leben, Robert R. ; Hoffmann, Nicholas G. ; Brickley, Peter J. ; Coholan, Patrice D. ; Sharma, Neha ; Graber, Hans C ; Turner, Raymond E. / Impacts of Loop Current Frontal Cyclonic Eddies and Wind Forcing on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record Breaking Enterprise. wiley, 2013. pp. 103-116
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AU - Leben, Robert R.

AU - Hoffmann, Nicholas G.

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AU - Graber, Hans C

AU - Turner, Raymond E.

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N2 - The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest in U.S. history, highlights the environmental risks inherent in deepwater drilling. These risks were mitigated by rapid access to real-time satellite measurements from passive (optical, IR) and active (synthetic aperture radar, altimetry) sensors. This study employed satellite data, in tandem with in situ current and wind measurements, to track surface oil and to better understand the causes for observed large-scalemotions during the 84 day episode. The analysis revealed the merger of three cyclonic eddies along the Loop Current's (LC's) northern margin, ultimately forming a larger and more vigorous cyclonic eddy, measuring 280 × 130 km on 18 May. This larger cyclonic eddy, in tandem with a smaller anticyclonic eddy and a LC meander, controlled themotion of the oil/dispersant mixture into deepwater (maximum current speed of 2.25 m s-1), tripling the area of surface oiling from 9623 to 33,575 km2. Two main events limited the flow of oil to the Florida Straits, the accumulation of oil within the merged eddy and the fact that this eddy did not move substantially for several months. The observed offshore entrainment of oil toward the LC was successfully hindcast using a particle-tracking model based on geostrophic currents computed from satellite altimetry. This assessment of circulation processes may help to advance numerical circulation modeling efforts in this region of rapid current variability in support of safer deepwater drilling in the northern Gulf.

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