Oceanographers Study Gulf Oil Plumes

ARLINGTON, Va., June 24 (UPI) — The National Science Foundation says it’s funding a 12-day research project aimed at characterizing subsurface oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials said a multidisciplinary team of investigators from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution embarked June 17 aboard the research vessel Endeavor, conducting three simultaneous projects.

The research involves the oil being vented into the gulf from the Deepwater Horizon well head.

Four WHOI principal investigators are each focusing on different but complementary problems associated with the oil spill.

In addition to coordinating all the research efforts, Chief Scientist Rich Camilli is using underwater mass spectrometers, an enhanced water sampler and the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry to investigate the hydrocarbon plumes.

“We have studied archived oil spill reports stretching back over 40 years, and have received data and advice from colleagues at other institutions who have recently surveyed the site. … Our team will build on their results using our own unique scientific tools to better understand the spill’s extent, composition and impact in the marine subsurface,” Camilli said.

WHOI Senior Scientist Dana Yoerger, a principal developer of the underwater vehicle, said Sentry will follow the hydrocarbon signal throughout the water column and build three-dimensional maps of hydrocarbons in real time “not only to define their shape, but to identify individual chemicals within the plume.”

“Oceanographers usually have a year or more to prepare for an expedition of this magnitude, but these are extraordinary times,” Camilli said. “We have gone from a concept to operational state in less than two weeks. It is a great credit to the National Science Foundation, University of Rhode Island, the numerous Federal agencies, our colleagues at WHOI and elsewhere, all working in high gear to make this expedition successful.”

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Categorized | Chemicals, Maps, Other
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