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Images: Gliders Tracked Potential for Oil to Reach the East Coast

To track the location and dynamics of the Loop Current, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institiution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography piloted a robotic glider through the Gulf of Mexico throughout the summer of 2010. It collected measurements and periodically rose to the surface to transmit data back to scientists on shore. (Data from adapted from NOAA National Oceanographic Data Center. Background image from NASA.)

The Spray glider, developed by scientists at WHOI and Scripps, is a 6-foot, 110-pound, torpedo-shaped underwater vehicle that can remain at sea for months. It receives commands from scientists on shore who can direct its movements. (Dwight Cody)

Breck Owens, a physical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, helped develop the Spray glider. From June to August 2010, he piloted a glider through the Gulf of Mexico, keeping track of the Loop Current. Owens sees the day when “gliders could be the basis for an ocean-observing system for oil spill monitoring, field operations, hurricane prediction, and navigation forecasts.” (Dwight Cody)