Intern Nathan M. Murry – senior Oceanography major at Millersville University, working under Drs. Bruce Lipphardt and Helga Huntly at the University of Delaware.
I am a senior student in Millersville University’s Physical Oceanography program. I have experience with environmental data analysis and technical logistics. This summer I am working with two CARTHE investigators in the University of Delaware’s School of Marine Science and Policy, Dr. Bruce Lipphardt and Dr. Helga Huntley.
We are interested in energetic ocean features like eddies and fronts in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, using more than 300 surface drifters launched there in July 2012 as part of the Grand Lagrangian Deployment (GLAD) experiment to study them. The Gulf of Mexico has many energetic surface eddies, driven primarily by the fast-moving Loop Current, which is the southern limb of the Gulf Stream, entering the Gulf of Mexico through the Straits of Yucatán and exiting through the Florida Straits. Once or twice each year, the Loop Current bends back on itself and forms a large eddy, which pinches off and moves westward across the Gulf.
This summer, we are investigating the space and time scales of energetic circulation features in the eastern Gulf using velocities determined from the tracks of the GLAD drifters. Since these drifters reported their positions by satellite every five minutes, we have highly resolved tracks to analyze. We are using statistical techniques, like space and time correlations of drifter velocities, to learn more about the ocean processes that move the drifters. We are particularly interested in comparing the behavior of the drifters during early August before Hurricane Isaac passed through with their behavior in early September after Isaac left the area. The passage of the hurricane dramatically dispersed the drifters, so that they sampled a much larger area of the Gulf in September. I’m interested to learn how this change in drifter distribution is reflected in their velocity statistics.
As an undergraduate oceanography major, CARTHE has given me a unique opportunity to work with a team of investigators studying a very practical problem: How do ocean circulation features impact the transport of oil in the environment? This summer I hope to learn more about ocean circulation features, and about how oceanographers use drifters to study them. I also expect to learn new data analysis skills, including more sophisticated programming with MATLAB, which we are using for our study.