Three-Dimensional Gulf Circulation and Biogeochemical Processes Unveiled by State-of-the-Art Profiling Float Technology and Data Assimilative Ocean Models

Sponsor:  Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative


Ocean Leadership, Inc.
Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
University of Miami: Nick Shay, Benjamin Jaimes, Jodi Brewster
Dalhousie University: Katja Fennel, Arnaud Laurent
Teledyne Webb Research: Peter Furze
North Carolina State University: Ruoying He, Haibo Zong, Joseph Zambon

Funding period

January 2016 – December 2018


The overarching goal of this proposed research is to build a rapid response capability that can be deployed in the event of an oil spill. The capability will consist of an integrated observation-prediction system to map the distribution and extent of hydrocarbons in the water column in real time and to quantify hydrocarbon removal and fate including short-term predictions of dispersion induced by the current field and transport of oil to the sea floor through scavenging by marine particles. Specific research objectives are (1) Observe fundamental physical and biogeochemical properties and processes using advanced state-of-the-art measurement sensors on profiling floats; (2) Integrate physical and biogeochemical processes in a coupled model that assimilates real-time data streams in the presence of strong currents; (3) Develop a flexible and carefully evaluated “end-to-end” predictive capability that can be deployed rapidly in case of subsurface oil spills to improve mitigation approaches by emergency responders and policy makers; and (4) Quantify data and model uncertainties via a robust suite of realistic scenario simulations so that the final forecasted probability has well-understood sources of uncertainty. The prediction system will be evaluated in retrospective assimilation experiments using data from the Deepwater Horizon spill and in forecast experiments that assimilate satellite and float data in real time. Both will demonstrate the system’s capability, and improve our understanding of physical mechanisms and their impacts on the biogeochemistry in the water column.


Work is in progress.

The web site 3-D Gulf of Mexico Circulation and Biogeochemical Processes has been created by the PIs to inform the public about the project and its products.

A project overview website has been created by the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute.