SPOT GPS Tracking Units Help Study Gulf Surface Currents

300 Drifters Released Near Site of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Tracking Gulf currents

Tracking Gulf currents

Courtesy Globalstar

Globalstar, parent company for the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, announced this week its participation in a Gulf of Mexico study to determine how pollutants behave in normal and hurricane conditions. During the summer, more than 300 SPOT devices, mounted inside drifters that float just below the surface, were deployed near the location where the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred in April 2010.

"In light of the Deepwater Horizon incident and Hurricane Isaac, SPOT has transmitted ground-breaking data that may tell us how pollutants behave in normal and hurricane conditions," Dr. Tamay Ozgokmen, Director of CARTHE (Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment), said in a Globalstar press release. "Oceanographers have never released 300 drifters at once. We did this in the area near the Deepwater Horizon and measured where and how fast the drifters moved, using high-precision tracking devices. This novel approach to understanding the Gulf's unique ocean surface currents has implications for emergency responders and managers in the event of another oil spill, as well as human and environmental health."

CARTHE's funding comes from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative program. Globalstar has partnered with the University of Miami for its portion of the project, labeled the Grand Lagrangian Deployment.

In three months, SPOT devices have provided CARTHE nearly 5 million data transmissions on ocean-circulation patterns. Every five minutes, the devices relay GPS coordinates with an accuracy of four meters. SPOT altered its standard tracking of every 10 minutes to meet the study's unique needs.