June 21, 2010
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson returned to Galveston, Texas, on June 11 from an eight-day research mission to investigate the presence and distribution of subsurface oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. The mission collected water samples for chemical analysis and tested the feasibility of using acoustic and flourometric scanning to help find potential pockets of subsurface oil clouds. The science team onboard included researchers from NOAA, EPA, the University of New Hampshire and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
“NOAA is extremely concerned about the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the well-being of the millions of people who depend on these waters for their livelihoods and pleasure,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’m pleased that agency and academic scientists continue to innovate and explore ways to bring the absolute best science to inform the response and recovery efforts.”
The use of acoustic and flourometric sensors can help sweep large areas to detect anomalies in the water column. Researchers then deployed water sampling devices in that same area to determine if the anomaly was in fact caused by the presence of oil.
Water samples and the acoustic data are currently being analyzed in further detail. Chemical analysis of the water samples is underway to determine if oil is present in the water, in what concentrations, and to identify the source of any oil that is found.
Initial observations from the mission include:
Once the water samples from this mission are analyzed, scientists will compare those findings with the acoustic and flourometric data to determine if the imaging data are useful in helping find subsea oil at low concentrations.
“This was a very important mission for us, and we are anxious to get back the final chemical analysis of the water samples we collected. Should this combined method prove effective, it would help researchers more efficiently target their water sampling in future missions in the area,” said Dr. Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center at University of New Hampshire.
Over the course of the 8-day mission, which began in New Orleans, La., on June 3 and ended in Galveston, Texas, on June 11, scientists collected the following types of data:
Water samples have been sent to Alpha Labs in Mass., and TDI Brooks inTexas for further analysis. The full report of the trip is available online.
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