May 01, 2016
Recently published work by ECOGIG scientists characterizes, for the first time, the seasonal development of the submesoscale (scales of 0.1-10 km) circulation dynamics near the ocean surface in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, surface oil was seen ‘organized’ in spatially coherent, submesoscale frontal structures - several tens of kilometers long and less than a few kilometers wide - that became more prominent from the end of May onward and contributed to the oil transport and convergence in the late spring and early summer of 2010. The prevalence of frontal structures in the northern Gulf during the summer was further confirmed by the Grand Lagrangian Deployment (GLAD) conducted in August 2012 by GoMRI funded CARTHE consortium.
The mainstream consensus is that submesoscale fronts should form and intensify if the mixed layer depth is deep, and therefore in winter. In this work, the researchers explain why the seasonal cycle of surface frontogenesis is different and fronts are prevalent in the summer season in the Gulf of Mexico and provide new insights on the processes that drive transport and mixing at the surface in the northern Gulf of Mexico.