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LAgrangian Submesoscale ExpeRiment

CARTHE will return to the Gulf of Mexico in January-February 2016 to conduct the LAgrangian Submesoscale ExpeRiment (LASER). LASER will build upon the vast amount of data that was collected during the 2012 GLAD experiment. Our mission is to understand the submesoscale (small scale, temporary) ocean currents in the open ocean environment near the DeSoto Canyon, as well as how oil or other pollutants might be transported via these currents.

Our team has spent several years preparing for what will be the largest-scale experiment of its kind. LASER will bring together an unprecedented collection of aircraft surveillance, remote sensing, real-time data-assimilating models, and advanced Lagrangian transport analysis methods operating in unison in order to guide massive Lagrangian sampling (with up to 1000 drifters and 10,000 drift cards) of those upper ocean processes controlling transport of hydrocarbons in the environment.

The centerpiece of the experiment will be 1000 custom-designed drifters, which have been perfected via extensive tests in the SUSTAIN laboratory as well as in the field. These new drifters are made from a biodegradable material and will be equipped with SPOT Trace satellite trackers that will transmit data back to our scientists for months.


A Ship-Tethered Aerostat Remote Sensing System (STARSS) will contribute to the aerial monitoring of the surface of the ocean by acquiring high-resolution imagery. These images will be used to determine how small-scale mixing driven by waves, winds, and short-lived currents affect how tracers like oil spread and move over time. The drifters released during LASER will show us what happens at scales of 200 m to many km, while STARRS will allow us to see what’s happening at scales of 1 m – 200 m. For more information on STARRS, please visit our aerostat blog post.

To stay up to date on our progress, please follow us on Facebook or visit our blog.

** If you see one of our drifters in the water, please leave it there.  

We hope to have them drift for several months.  Thank you for your support. **