Intern Reed C McDonough – freshman Meteorology and Broadcast Journalism major working under Dr. Shuyi Chen at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School.
Throughout the summer, I’ll be collecting and organizing wind speed forecasting data from the UMCM-WMH model (University of Miami Coupled Model) for the summer months of 2012 and the winter months of 2013. Then, I’ll be comparing this data with observed wind speed conditions that come from a satellite called OSCAT, which orbits our planet continuously everyday. My goal is to improve the accuracy of the model’s forecasts. Then, I will collaborate with CARTHE scientists to figure out how this information can be used to understand oil transport.
When thinking about oil flowing along in the twists and turns of ocean currents, most people tend to focus on just that – the ocean. However, it is equally as important to look at how the atmosphere, or the air above the water is behaving. Many things push and pull ocean currents, including different temperatures in the water, different salinity, or salt content. But another, sometimes forgotten, variable that significantly affects the ocean is wind. For example, a fairly complicated principle regarding winds and ocean is that the surface water tends to move at an angle 45˚ to the right of the wind above it (45˚ to the left in the Southern Hemisphere). This creates movements in the ocean called Ekman Currents, or Ekman Transport. Take a look at this image:
As you travel farther down in the ocean, the currents keep moving 45˚ to the right of the currents just above them, thus the overall movement of the water is due right of the wind. This plays a major factor in figuring out where exactly oil, say 30 feet below the ocean surface, will end up. Is it going to end up on your local beach? Or is it going to drift off to somewhere else in the vast ocean and affect someone else? That’s what I’m trying to help figure out!
I’m nervous about diving into this, as I’ve never been exposed to the complicated computer languages that are used to gather and organize all this data. I started learning a language called MATLAB back in January 2014, but now it’s time to actually put it to use. I’m sure there will be many hard hours ahead, but I am surrounded by experts who will lend me a hand!