Bob the Drifter: How do we know where spilled oil will go?

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Guillaume Novelli, Laura Bracken, and Tamay Ozgokmen, University of Miami/ CARTHE
Patrick Rynne and Fiona Graham, University of Miami RSMAS/ Waterlust
Bob the drifter is an animated representation of the custom-made, GPS-equipped surface drifters used by CARTHE (Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbon (oil) in the Environment) during our 2012 experiment - Grand LAgrangian Deployment (GLAD). GLAD was the largest upper-ocean field experiment of its kind, using 300+ drifters. The drifters were launched simultaneously and floated along with the Gulf of Mexico currents for over 2 months, resulting in ~6 million data points. The trajectories of drifters like Bob allow us to draw maps of the diverse routes that carry floating material (like oil) at the surface of the ocean. For the first time, we could measure the influence of both the small-scale, temporary currents and the large-scale, persistent currents (ex. the Loop Current) on the dispersion of pollution. Now we can better predict where spilled oil will go.
Original Publication
Poje, A.C., Özgökmen, T.M., Lipphardt, B.L., Haus, B.K., Ryan, E.H., Haza, A.C., Jacobs, G.A., Reniers, A.J.H.M., Olascoaga, M.J., Novelli, G., Griffa, A., Beron-Vera, F.J., Chen, S.S., Coelho, E., Hogan, P.J., Kirwan, A.D., Huntley, H.S., and Mariano, A.J. 2014. Submesoscale dispersion in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon spill. PNAS, 111(35): 12693-12698. 

By the Numbers

Over 40,000 students in 50 US states, the US Virgin Islands, and 25 countries participated as judges in the 2016 Ocean 180 Video Challenge.