Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High tech tools, top-notch science and serendipity play part in finding 23-mile long plume off Florida’s Treasure Coast

14.06.2010
A team of dedicated South Florida researchers from the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (NOAA/AOML) returning from the Gulf were determined to check on whether oil was, as predicted, being pulled into the Loop Current and carried toward the Dry Tortugas.

The University of Miami’s 96-foot catamaran the RV/F.G. Walton Smith had just completed a two-week National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored cruise sampling the deep submerged plumes near the Deepwater Horizon well site. NOAA/AOML offered to pay for a few additional days, but the ship which is part of the University National Laboratory System, had to return to Miami on its tight schedule. The best they could do was extend the trip home by 18 hours.

Using funding provided through CIMAS, a team was rapidly assembled that included UM and CIMAS oceanographers Tom Lee and Nelson Melo, as well as a group of scientists led by Michelle Wood, director of the NOAA/AOML’s Ocean Chemistry Division. A sampling plan was pulled together using particle trajectories calculated by the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science’s Coastal Shelf Modeling Group, in combination with information provided by Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecast Service (ROFFS) and remotely sensed images from UM’s Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS). Using these sophisticated tools, the team decided that the most likely pathway for oil to reach the Florida Keys was for it to be pulled into a counterclockwise rotating frontal eddy in the northeast corner of the Loop Current, and then south along the eastern frontal zone of the Loop Current to the Dry Tortugas.

They set out, borrowing surveying equipment from NSF scientists who were leaving the ship, including geological oceanographer Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi and Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia. As they traveled into the eddy field they saw areas of sheen, but no tar balls.

Changing course to the south, however they found an area of strong flow convergence within a southward flowing jet that resulted from flow being pulled into the eddy. Knowing that this was just the type of oceanographic feature that would concentrate any floating material, including oil, they followed it. At about the same time a U.S. Coast Guard flight that had been sent to visually survey the area spotted what they thought could be an oil slick in the area and contacted the scientists aboard the Walton Smith to have the ship get a closer look at the slick.

“As we approached, we found an extensive oil slick that stretched about 20 nm (20 miles) along the southward flowing jet which merged with the northern front of the Loop Current. The slick was made up of tar balls shaped like pancakes that went from the size of a dime to about 6 inches in diameter,” said Tom Lee, UM Research Professor Emeritus and CIMAS scientist. “The combination of models and satellite images, along with our shipboard observations and ROFFS daily analysis had helped us to identify and study this previously unidentified oil plume located off Florida’s southwest coast and heading toward the Tortugas.”

Scientists quickly set up net tows and lowered a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) instrument equipped with oil sampling devices into the water, collecting samples of both the oil and saltwater in the area. As they headed further south they kept looking for other tendrils oil, but increased winds made spotting tell-tale sheen more difficult. As a result they could not confirm the exact length of this southern arm of the oil slick, which they had previously inferred from their data. Samples have been provided to federally sanctioned laboratories to confirm the source of materials gathered.

“The good news is that the various approaches we are using to project its pathway seem to be yielding similar answers and guiding us properly. We need to maintain our vigilance and expand our efforts to determine the degree of risk to unique downstream resources like the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which are vital natural environments that we need to protect,” said Peter Ortner, UM Marine Biology and Fisheries professor and director of CIMAS. “NOAA Cooperative Institutes, like CIMAS, continue to stand ready to assist their federal partners with the best available science to ensure that response and restoration resources are deployed as proactively and responsibly as possible during this national emergency.”

Earlier this month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced its selection of UM to continue to lead its CIMAS partnership, which has been in place since 1977 to improve our understanding of climate, hurricanes, and marine ecosystems along the southeastern U.S. coast. The renewed partnership allows investigators from UM and partner institutions to receive NOAA, as well as other federal agency support for research projects, and facilitates collaboration with NOAA scientists at NOAA/AOML, National Hurricane Center, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, as well as other NOAA facilities and 18 Cooperative Institutes nationwide.

About the University of Miami

The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu/oil-spill

Barbra Gonzalez | University of Miami
Further information:
http://www.rsmas.miami.edu
http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/oil-spill

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>