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BackgroundTrajectories by Type Trajectories by Date

Deepwater Horizon Trajectory Map Archive

Deepwater Horizon 24Hr Trajectory Map Icon 2010-06-22-2100

Beginning April 21, 2010, the modeling team at NOAA's Office of Reponse and Restoration (OR&R) began generating daily trajectories for the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, continuing this work for 107 days. Those trajectory maps are available, grouped by type and by date, through the links in the navigation bar at the top of this page. The production of trajectory maps was discontinued August 23, 2010.


Cumulative trajectory maps were produced early in the Deepwater Horizon spill response. They showed on one map the surface location of spilled oil for several consecutive days, as well as a forecast for the following day. As the area of water affected by the spill grew larger, the forecast aspect of these maps became more important than the day-to-day changes in surface oil, so the next trajectory products included only forecasts.

Forecasts for 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours were produced for surface oil in the nearshore (not in the Loop Current system) [leaves OR&R site] to support daily response planning. These forecasts continued to be produced until no recoverable oil was seen in overflights of the area for about three weeks.

In mid-May, when a "tail" of oil entered the northern part of the Loop Current, it created a potential pathway for oil to be transported to the Florida Keys, Cuba, or the Bahamas. With this change in the scale of the trajectory forecasts, OR&R began producing forecasts for two regions: nearshore and offshore. The offshore forecasts also supported daily response planning, predicting where surface oil impacted by the Loop Current system would be in the next 24, 48, and 72 hours. Weeks later, when recoverable oil was no longer observed in overflights or satellite analyses, the offshore forecasts were phased out.

In mid-July, OR&R began producing maps to provide daily updates of the location of the Loop Current and its major eddies, and the location of floating oil relative to the Loop Current system. After more than a month of daily mapping, overflights and satellite analyses eventually showed no recoverable oil in this area, and the Loop Current threat diminished.

Understanding the Trajectory Maps

The following publications were created to help map users understand and interpret the oil trajectory maps.

More Loop Current Information

For those interested in the location of the Loop Current, general Loop Current information is available on the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) page, Altimetry-Derived Products.

Back to the main Deepwater Horizon page

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