New Initialization Method Improves Gulf Eddy Forecasts

Horizon Marine, Inc., provider of marine data collection and analysis services for over 20 years, and Accurate Environmental Forecasting, Inc. (AEF), a technology leader in coupled ocean-atmosphere modeling, have formed an alliance to produce improved Loop Current Eddy (LCE) forecasts.

AEF and HMI have completed the development and testing of a new LCE forecast system named Eddy Forecastsm. With Eddy Ulysses poised to separate from the Loop Current and disrupt deepwater operations in the northern Gulf of Mexico by early fall, AEF-HMI Eddy Forecastsm is ready to provide both regional and site specific LCE forecasts as part of Eddy Watchsm.

HMI's Eddy Watchsm service, started in 1984, deploys oceanographic buoys, conducts hydrographic surveys, monitors current profiles at rig locations, and analyzes satellite observations to provide comprehensive operational monitoring and analysis of ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico. The data collected by HMI has been used by the Eddy Joint Industry Project and also by the multi-national Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) project to examine the forecast skill of numerical ocean models such as CU-POM and HYCOM. These models rely solely on satellite observations to initialize the forecasts and, although some of the ocean nowcasts have been able to capture major Loop Current eddies, none of them have been able to demonstrate useable forecast skill. The lack of data in general and inaccuracies in the initialization scheme both contribute to the poor forecast performance.

The AEF-HMI Eddy Forecastsm model combines an extended ocean observing system with a proprietary initialization scheme resulting in significantly improved forecasts. The model initialization starts with a description of the vertical density structure, shape, and swirl speed of the targeted LCE and surrounding smaller cyclonic eddies. This technique is analogous to using vortex bogusing to initialize hurricane forecasts. The initialization will utilize all data from HMI's Eddy Watchsm service including proprietary drifting buoys, current profiles and ocean surveys, and all publicly available satellite data. In addition, HMI plans to air-deploy expendable bathythermographs (AXBTs) in and around the LCE as part of Eddy Watchsm to determine the underlying structure of the features.

HMI is an oceanographic services company specializing in operational marine data collection and analysis services and operates the Eddy Watchsm service in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Trinidad. AEF provides customized environmental modeling products including state-of-the-art coupled atmosphere-ocean forecasting.