A study of a warm Gulf Stream current in the Gulf of Mexico could aid oil and gas offshore drilling activities in the gulf, a U.S. government agency says.
The Minerals Management Service study, conducted with the Louisiana State University’s Coastal Marine Institute, will help scientists “better understand the Loop Current and improve our forecasting of its behavior in the Gulf of Mexico,” agency oceanographer Alexis 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,” he said.
The wide U.S. continental shelf in the gulf is exploited for its oil by means of offshore drilling rigs, most situated in the western gulf.
The Loop Current is a warm ocean current that is part of the powerful Gulf Stream that flows northward into the gulf and then loops west and south before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits.
The related Loop Current Eddies, or rings, are areas of warm water that separate from the Loop Current, drift westward at speeds of about 0.11 mph and bump into the coast of Texas or Mexico.
The study, using a deep-water mooring cable, suggests the current and eddies that dominate upper-layer currents in the eastern gulf also influence currents far below, Lugo-Fernandez said.
This is also affected by tropical storms and hurricanes, he said.
As sea levels rise near the center of tropical storms, the resulting higher pressure causes a small but measurable increase in temperature at all water depths.
“Simply due to the large number of storm occurrences within the [gulf], these findings represent an important process for transmitting energy to the deep water,” he said.
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