Ocean Circulation Lab
USF College of Marine Science

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill trajectory ensemble forecast from different numerical models

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This is a joint effort of the Ocean Circulation Group and the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at College of Marine Science, University of South Florida to track/predict the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico using simulated drifters/particles. Drifter trajectories were calculated based on the surface currents from five different numerical ocean circulation models: the West Florida Shelf ROMS hindcast/forecast system from University of South Florida, the Gulf of Mexico HYCOM nowcast/forecast system from Naval Research Laboratory, the SABGOM nowcast/forecast system from North Carolina State University, the Global HYCOM + NCODA Analysis from the HYCOM Consortium, and the RTOFS (Atlantic) hindcast/forecast system from NOAA Emvironmental Modeling Center. Only four model results are shown here. Individual oil trajectory models can be accessed at http://ocgweb.marine.usf.edu. Different models are updated at different time, and their temporal and spatial resolutions also vary. More specific information may be available from the models' original wesites. It must be recognized that all forecast models have errors that grow with time for a variety of reasons. This is one reason why it is important to consider comparative analyses from several different models.

Virtual particles were released from the sunken rig site every three hours, assuming continuous oil spill from the well. The initial locations of the drifters were inferred from the latest satellite remotely sensed oil slick patches. Macondo well is designated by the red circle. The particles (difters) are shown as black dots, and their trajectries in magenta. Sea surface temperature (color contours, units in deg C) was superimposed with the surface current vectors to indicate the surface ocean circulation. The velocity data were subsampled every the third grid points in both east and north directions for better visulization. Questions or comments, please contact Prof. Robert H. Weisberg or Dr. Yonggang Liu.

5/18/2010: We have identified a programming bug in the script we used to download sea surface temperature (SST) data from the SABGOM nowcast/forecast system (NCSU). As a result, the lower left panel ocean temperature field was incorrectly represented for the SABGOM model in the past two weeks. This bug is corrected on May 18th, 2010. We apologize for the misrepresentation of SABGOM model SST fields and any confusions this may have led to.


The nowcast/forecast system and other analyses/data are research products under development. No warranty is made, expressed or implied, regarding accuracy, or regarding the suitability for any particular application. All rights reserved University of South Florida. Copyright University of South Florida 05/06/2010.

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