Eric D'Asaro

Senior Principal Oceanographer

OPD Department


Professor, Oceanography

Andrey Shcherbina

Principal Oceanographer

OPD Department


Affiliate Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mike Ohmart

Field Engineer II

OE Department


Research Funding

Gulf of Mexico Research Consortium

Oil Convergence + Dispersion on Ocean Currents

Lagrangian Submesoscale Experiment — LASER

Part 1
Part 2

A science team led by Eric D'Asaro conducted a unique mission to deploy over 1,000 ocean drifters in a small area of the Gulf of Mexico. The real-time data collected from the biodegradable drifters recalibrated understanding of ocean currents.

This video is part of the series Dispatches from the Gulf — a multimedia initiative featuring documentaries, short videos, and podcasts that examine science, innovation, community, and recovery in the Gulf of Mexico in the years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

How does oil spread away from a spill area? Surprising observations from the research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster provide new insight.

Over 1,000 small ocean drifter were released to track the motion of surface currents and act as a surrogate for oil. Instead of spreading apart, many of the drifters converged into a small area during the first week and only then spread apart slowly over the next month. "These convergence regions would be excellent places to recover spilled oil," suggest Eric D'Asaro, who served as chief scientist on the R/V Walton Smith during LASER.

In areas of drifter accumulation, Lagrangian floats were deployed to measure the velocities in the upper ocean. The LASER team reports that the drifters converge due to downwelling at density fronts, linking serveral types of observations and theoretical and modeling predictions.

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