On Saturday, April 21, 2017, the R/V Walton Smith made it to the Louisiana area and met the UCLA, University of Miami, Naval Postgraduate School, and the FSU/UM/UD Drone boats for the first Dense Drifter Deployment (DDD). We successfully deployed the 144 drifters in the center of an anticyclone feature. The drifter grid was deployed using the small boats, assisted by the Walton Smith and a very quiet sea. Before our GLAD experiment in 2012, this would have been the largest number of drifters deployed ever. Now, we do this before lunch! How quickly things change.
In the gif above, you can see the grid pattern clearly as the team works efficiently to deploy the drifters. Then the mass moves clockwise and then encounters MOAZ (Mother of all Zippers) towards the end. A “zipper” is an area near a front where the drifters converge into a line (it looks like a zipper being zipped together). The front was very visible as can be seen in the photo below. In addition to our drifters, the front also collected foam, debris, and a dead alligator!! (no photo of alligator, sorry)
Most of the drifters are still moving towards the south west. Below is the location of drifters as of April 24, 2017. Notice how they have stayed together for the most part. Do you think they will keep moving offshore? What might cause them to shift back to land? These are the kinds of things our team is constantly discussing and getting very good at predicting.
Weather isn’t cooperating so we’ll wait a few days before the next big release. In the meantime the planes are still flying and the ship is doing smaller releases. Stay tuned!