Shaun Dolk

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Spring 2015


Oil spills are a serious threat to coastal neighborhoods and businesses that rely on nearby marine resources, including tourism. Most existing oil spill models focus on real-time prediction to aid response efforts, but are not ideal to forecast the impact of spills from existing, or proposed exploration sites, into the future. Therefore, to improve seasonal to annual oil response preparations for potential upstream threats from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida, and Caribbean Sea, I created an oil spill projection model using climatological records, including historical drifting buoy and surface wind databases. Utilizing climatological data is a statistical advantage, as it provides historical perspective in the region and allows me to measure the effects of data-based ocean current and wind velocities on oil dispersion. Incorporating data from the earliest drifters in the region, December 1992 to present, strengthens the model, which better projects oil trajectories and identifies areas of concern. A critical component of this project is community outreach and public awareness. Therefore, upon completion of the interactive oil spill projection model, I worked with the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Adopt a Drifter Program (ADP) to illustrate the use of drifter data to analyze this critical issue. I chose NOAA’s ADP as a key partner to communicate the results of this model and to illustrate the use of drifter data to analyze this critical issue because the ADP is dedicated to establishing scientific partnerships between schools around the world and to engage students (grades K-12) in activities and communication about ocean climate science. Therefore, in addition to assessing the impacts from oil spills and improving long-term planning, the partnership with the ADP is designed to inspire students to use similar data to tackle this, and other key issues facing our communities.


Department: ATM

MPS Track: Weather, Climate and Society

Location: NOAA AOML, Adopt a Drifter Program : Miami, FL

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