During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there was tremendous uncertainty about where to protect or collect oil in order to best use the finite response resources. This was, in part, caused by the lack of understanding of the three dimensional flow field in the central northern Gulf of Mexico and its associated forcing functions. The spatial variability in the forcing functions and resulting flow field will generate dramatically different Lagrangian trajectories of oil based substances depending on their depth and shelf position.
We will examine the flow field characteristics on the Alabama shelf, from both the Eulerian and Lagrangian perspective, and their associated forcing mechanisms in order to enhance the understanding of the processes that dictate the origin, fate, and residence time of material in the coastal ocean. During the spring and summer of 2011 the Sea Lab will be deploying a number acoustic wave and current sensors (AWACs) and surface drifters in conjunction with the existing regional coastal observing network to meeting these objectives.