New light on loops

February 9, 2010

In a development that could have far-reaching implications for oil & gas operators in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, researchers last month released the findings of a two-year study that could help scientists better predict the behavior of the region’s powerful loop current and its eddies.

The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) sponsored study, Observation of the deepwater manifestation of the loop current and loop current rings in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, provides new information about the loop current and its associated eddies, the relation between upper-layer and lower-layer currents, and ‘the variability of water mass characteristics in deepwater’.

According to the MMS, data gathered during the deployment of an eastern Gulf of Mexico mooring cable in 11,800ft of water suggest the current and eddies that dominate upperlayer circulation there also influence deeper currents in the region.

The study supplements information gathered during a previous three-year deployment. During the very active 2005 hurricane season, scientists observed that rising sea levels and pressure near the center of tropical storms transmits energy in the form of heat to deeper waters below, said Alexis Lugo- Fernandez, the MMS physical oceanographer who led study conducted under a joint agreement with Louisiana State University’s Coastal Marine Institute.

‘The observations from this study will help MMS and other scientists better understand the loop current and improve our forecasting of its behavior in the Gulf of Mexico,’ Lugo- Fernandez said. ‘This is important because oil and gas activities in the deepwater Gulf are affected by the presence of the loop current and the loop current eddies’ (OE February 2004). OE



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