New Report Calls For Research To Better Understand, Predict Gulf Of Mexico’s Loop Current System

2018-01-09T17:07:00+00:00 January 9, 2018|
(Credit: Mark Schleifstein)

(Credit: Mark Schleifstein)

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine calls for an international, multi-institutional comprehensive campaign of research, observation, and analysis activities that would help improve understanding and prediction of the Gulf of Mexico’s Loop Current System (LCS). 

(From Science Daily) — The position, strength, and structure of the LCS — the dominant ocean circulation feature in the Gulf — has major implications for oil and gas operations, hurricane intensity, coastal ecosystems, oil spill response, the fishing industry, tourism, and the region’s economy.

The report identifies a suite of complementary research efforts that would provide critical information about the LCS to help promote safer offshore operations, better understand the Gulf’s complex oceanographic systems, facilitate disaster response, help protect coastal communities, protect and manage ecological resources, and predict and forecast weather and climate impacts. Estimated to take about 10 years and cost between $100 million and $125 million, the recommended research campaign is critical for more accurate predictions of the Loop Current’s path, the report says.

“Improving our predictive skills and understanding of the Loop Current System is critical to operational safety and a variety of human activities in the Gulf,” said Paul G. Gaffney II, chair of the committee that wrote the report, a retired Navy vice admiral, and president emeritus of Monmouth University. “Moreover, improving ocean modeling in the Gulf will also inform prediction efforts in other ocean basins. Our report identifies gaps in knowledge and recommends comprehensive measurements and research efforts that could be undertaken to fill these gaps.”

The LCS flows northward through the Yucatán Channel up into the Gulf of Mexico where it eventually turns eastward and then southward before exiting out through the Florida Straits and feeding into the Gulf Stream. The position of the current varies greatly depending on whether it is in a retracted state or a more northerly, extended state. In addition, circular currents known as eddies — which can be 100-200 miles in diameter — occasionally separate from the main flow of the LCS and slowly migrate into the western Gulf.

Advancing understanding of the LCS could provide many benefits, the report says. For example, the lack of real-time, in situ observations in the deep ocean after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill made it difficult for first responders to track oil under the ocean’s surface. Better information could have improved spill response and recovery operations. In addition, when the LCS is in its extended state, its strong currents pose significant…

Read the full article here: