A Deep Water Dispersion Experiment in the Gulf of Mexico

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Meunier, Thomas
Pérez-Brunius, Paula
Rodríguez Outerelo, Javier
García-Carrillo, Paula
Ronquillo-Mendez, Argelia
Furey, Heather H.
Ramsey, Andree L.
Bower, Amy S.
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Lagrangian experiment
relative dispersion
Gulf of Mexico
Deep Water Dispersion
The Deep Water Horizon oil spill dramatically impacted the Gulf of Mexico from the seafloor to the surface. While dispersion of contaminants at the surface has been extensively studied, little is known about deep water dispersion properties. This study describes the results of the Deep Water Dispersion Experiment (DWDE), which consisted of the release of surface drifters and acoustically tracked RAFOS floats drifting at 300 and 1,500 dbar in the Gulf of Mexico. We show that surface diffusivity is elevated and decreases with depth: on average, diffusivity at 1,500 dbar is 5 times smaller than at the surface, suggesting that the dispersion of contaminants at depth is a significantly slower process than at the surface. This study also examines the turbulent regimes driving the dispersion, although conflicting evidences and large uncertainties do not allow definitive conclusions. At all depths, while the growth of dispersion and kurtosis with time supports the possibility of an exponential regime at very short time scales, indicating that early dispersion is nonlocal, finite size Lyapunov exponents support the hypothesis of local dispersion, suggesting that eddies of size comparable to the initial separation (6 km), may dominate the early dispersion. At longer time scales, the quadratic growth of dispersion is indicative of a ballistic regime, where a mean shear flow would be the dominating process. Examination of the along- and across-bathymetry components of float velocities supports the idea that boundary currents could be the source for this shear dispersion.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2021. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 126(10),(2021): e2021JC017375.,https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JC017375.
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Meunier, T., Perez Brunius, P., Rodriguez Outerelo, J., Garcia Carrillo, P., Ronquillo, A., Furey, H., Ramsey, A., & Bower, A. (2021). A Deep Water Dispersion Experiment in the Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(10), e2021JC017375.
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