delware environmental institute

Going with the flow: Scientists studying ocean currents and oil spills with large-scale experiment

Going with the flow:  Scientists studying ocean currents and oil spills with large-scale experiment

Scientists are releasing hundreds of floating GPS devices into the Gulf of Mexico this week near the Deepwater Horizon site to study the role of ocean currents in oil spills. The experiment is the largest in scale of its kind, deploying 300 satellite-tracked, untethered buoys, called drifters, over the course of two and a half weeks.

“We’re trying to use the drifters as a simulation of an oil spill,” said Dennis Kirwan, Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor of Marine Studies in the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “This is a big event in oceanography.”

Analysis of the drifters’ travels will help researchers better understand ocean flow and improve predictions of oil plume movement should another spill occur in the Gulf or elsewhere in the world.