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5 Million Data Points and Counting

The GLAD Experiment Offers a New Look at the Gulf of Mexico

As the Globalstar transmission shut down approaches, ending the GPS data collection phase of CARTHE’s Grand Lagrangian Deployment (GLAD), the team is still collecting data from the largest upper-ocean dispersion experiment of its kind.

“The good news is that we still have 142 active drifters sampling the GoM. The bad news is that we still have 142…” Tamay Özgökmen, CARTHE

When originally deployed, the 317 drifters, designed to follow surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico, were expected to provide locational information every five minutes via satellite link for four to five weeks. Many of the drifters continued to transmit beyond this service design period, prompting an extension of the monitoring contract. After three months, the monitoring was halted and the CARTHE team’s focus now shifts to analyzing this wealth of data representing over five million records.

“Only 3 of 317 drifters exited the Gulf through [the] FL Straits after 3 months. …it still seems like a small number given the time period.” Tamay Özgökmen, CARTHE

Researchers with CARTHE are examining atmospheric conditions and the ocean’s transport arising from a combination of surface currents and waves as a means of understanding dispersion of pollutants in the Gulf. The use of these customized drifters in mapping these currents is adding to the understanding of the role of oceanic flows in spreading and dispersing pollutants and materials on the surface of the ocean. The team had the fortunate passing of Hurricane Isaac through the study area, adding the dynamics of a named storm to their data set.

Read more about this ground-breaking experiment:

Earlier GLAD stories on the GoMRI website: Drifters in Path of Hurricane Isaac Provide New Insights on Ocean Currents, Follow the Journey of CARTHE Drifters in the Gulf and CARTHE at Sea: A Grand Experiment for Transformative Research in Gulf Oil Studies and a description of the GLAD Project on the CARTHE website.

This research is made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. The GoMRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident and the potential associated impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health.

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