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Drifters help forecast Gulf of Mexico surface circulation

EOS, 8 April 2014

by COLIN SCHULTZ, Writer, and JOANNA WENDEL, Staff Writer

During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists’ understanding of the meso- scale surface circulation patterns of the Gulf of Mexico became a topic of great impor- tance. With the oil slick growing, disaster response teams needed to know where to deploy. Many were concerned with the oil’s ultimate destination—whether it would travel toward the Florida Keys and into the Atlantic Ocean or remain in the Gulf. The drivers of surface circulation patterns are varied, rang- ing from wind to internal waves to pressure and salinity gradients, and the task of fore- casting the oil’s motion was a challenge.

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