Sverdrup copyThe Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) at Texas A&M has launched a glider to patrol the waters near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The mission reports and data are being tracked by GCOOS’s Gulf AUV Network and Data Archive Long-term storage Facility (GANDALF).

The Slocum G2 glider, Sverdrup, was deployed for an  expected 45-day mission on May 9 and is reporting on water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, CDOM and density.
The glider is also equipped with a MicroRider, an instrument package that provides turbulence measurements. In this case, it will provide information on the hydrodynamics of water over the upper and mid slopes of the Continental Shelf, said mission leader Dr. Steve DiMarco, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Texas A&M.

TAMYU Oceanography grad student Christian Nygren, aboard the RV Mantis, prepares the glider for deployment. The netting on the glider helps to prevent remora from attaching to the glider -- like they attach to moving sharks -- which would prevent the glider from surfacing and cause it to abort its mission.

TAMU Oceanography grad student Christian Nygren, aboard the
RV Mantis, prepares the glider for deployment. The netting on the glider helps to prevent remora from attaching to the glider — like they attach to moving sharks — which would prevent the glider from surfacing and cause it to abort its mission.

The data gathered will help researchers understand how mixing occurs over areas with differing topography — for example, the area of greater contours it is now patrolling compared to how mixing occurs over smoother ocean bottom.

The glider mission is part of a wider study “Understanding How the Complex Topography of the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Influences Water-column Mixing Processes and the Vertical and Horizontal Distribution of Oil and Gas after a Blowout”  that is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Kurt Polzin, Associate Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and is funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI).

The information the Sverdrup glider gathers will be compared to data gathered using more sophisticated equipment during a ship-based cruise that will take place in June from the University of Southern Mississippi’s ship, the R/V Point Sur, and with information gathered from moored instruments.

This is the first time this type of data collection has been coordinated among a glider, a ship and moored instruments in the Gulf of Mexico, DiMarco said.

From a basic science standpoint, the data will provide important insights that will lead to a better understanding of how topography affects Gulf circulation patterns. The practical application is that it will provide better information on the hydrodynamic patterns that lead to the distribution, dispersion and dilution of contaminants like oil.

“We’re gaining new information on the complex relationship between topography and how mixing occurs in the water column,” DiMarco said. “We also hope that we can compare the data gathered on the ship to the gliders and the moorings and have more confidence in the data gathered by the gliders. While gliders can never replace ship-based observations, they can supplement and provide a complementary alternative to only using ship-based observations.”

Glider operations are being handled by the GERG Glider team: Dr. Kerri Whilden, Glider Operations Manager, and Karen Dreger, lead glider pilot and mission lead.