Building Ocean Observing Partnerships with the Energy Industry to Understand Gulf of Mexico Mesoscale Dynamics

Ruth Perry, Shell Houston, Houston, TX, United States, Stephan Dixon Howden, Univ of Southern Miss, Mandevile, LA, United States, Dawn C Petraitis, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Data Buoy Center, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States, Barbara A Kirkpatrick, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, Sarasota, FL, United States, Steven Francis DiMarco, Texas A&M University, Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), College Station, United States and Pak Leung, Shell Exploration & Production Company, Upstream Americas, Houston, United States
Since 2012, a partnership between Shell, NOAA, University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and the U.S. Navy has been operating and sharing data from integrated ocean observing platforms in the central and western Gulf of Mexico. In 2019, this partnership greatly expanded under the coordination of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System to include partners in the Caribbean and the U.S. East coast. The Gulf of Mexico collaboration primarily utilizes underwater gliders, but also incorporates vessel and rig-mounted ADCPs, buoys, remote sensing, and advanced numerical modeling to improve Loop Current and eddy forecasting and prediction for the Gulf stakeholders and to support Shell’s offshore operations. Here we focus on multi-year (2014 – 2019) observations with a focused emphasis on the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Over the six-year span, this collaboration has monitoring extreme and unusual and active Loop Current (LC) and eddy activity (LCE). The 2017 season was less intense and more representative of historical weak LC conditions, but the 2018 season had increased LCE activity persisting into early 2019 with strong LC speeds extending into the northern Gulf of Mexico. The gliders deploy continue to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and fluorescence in and around the Loop Current and eddies. All data was assimilated into models and in particular, the temperature and salinity observations help produce better forecasts of currents and other physical parameters in high resolution (~1 and 3 km) prediction systems routinely run in real-time by the U.S. Navy. The glider observations have been and are especially useful in targeting specific features and augment the coarser-resolution altimetry observations typically available in a region of relatively scarce in situ measurements. This collaboration continues to show variability of Gulf of Mexico physical environment by providing invaluable data for coupled hurricane-ocean forecasting and provides a foundation to show how leveraging complementary strengths between industry, government, military, and academia can be used to establish effective long-term monitoring programs that can expand ocean observing capacity in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond in U.S. federal and territorial waters specific to hurricane monitoring and forecasting.