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Oil Spill Cleanup Response

Using SEACOOS Real Time Data to Determine Oil Spill Clean Up Response is a high school lesson plan designed to use SEACOOS real time data and interactive wind map to predict the direction of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Submitted by Lita Weingart []

Program for Environmental Technology and Marine Science

Lakewood High School, St. Petersburg, FL

Download as Microsoft Word

Using Real Time Data to Determine Oil Spill Clean Up Response

Subjects: Marine Science, Ecology, Advanced Placement Environmental Science, Earth Space Science

Grade Level: 9-12


Purpose: Students will use real time data and interactive wind map to predict the direction of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Students will learn how to read wind barb measurements and how to use the COOS interactive map. Students will research oil spill clean-up techniques and develop a plan to respond to a hypothetical oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


Sunshine State Standard FCAT Critical Thinking Skill Reference:

Strand D: Processes that shape the earth

Standard 2: Students understands the need for protection of the natural systems on Earth

  1. understands the interconnectedness of systems on Earth and the quality of life
  2. describes advantages and disadvantages of human and technological interactions with the environment


Time: 4 class periods approx. 50 min each class period



  • One computer with internet access for each team of three students
  • Pencil and paper



In teams of three students, each team using the internet sites listed will:

  1. Collect background information about oil spill and oil spill response techniques
  2. Learn how to read wind barbs
  3. Learn how to use the interactive wind barb COOS map
  4. Use the information collected to create a oil spill response plan for a hypothetical oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico


Student teams research the following:

  1. Go to
  2. Using this site answer the following questions:
    • How does spilled oil affect marine organisms?
    • What physical properties affect how oil spreads; list three physical properties and how each affects how oil spreads.
    • How will the geology of the Florida shoreline affect an oil spill?
    • List several oil spill clean up methods.
    • List four natural processes that may reduce the severity of an oil spill, describe how each process affects the decomposition of spilled oil.
    • List six oil spill response techniques; describe the advantages and disadvantages of each technique.
    • How do oil spills affect species?
    • How do oil spills affect habitats?
    • Go to Photo Gallery and study several of the photos to gain a better understanding of potential for environmental damage and the complexity oil spill clean up.
  3. Using the internet go to
    • Click on Ports
    • Click on Tampa Bay Oil Spill Simulation
    • Click on Ports and Oil Spills
    • Click on Bartow Oil Spill Simulation after 2 hours
    • Click on the 12 hour projection
    • Click the back button 2 times
    • Click back to main page
    • Click on Ports and the 1993 Tampa Bay Oil Spill; read article. What measurements do scientists use to predict the direction that oil spills will move?
    • Click on here to view 0600-1200 EDT oils pill map
  4. Using the internet return to
    • Click on the IMARS link
    • Read article
    • Click on MODIS Home link
    • Read Article, click on “check it out” link
    • Click on Return to Access and Mapping
    • Click on Coastal Wind Observations
    • Answer the following questions:
      • What is wind?
      • Why is wind important?
      • What is unique about the interactive map tool?
    • Click on How to Read Wind Barbs.
      • Draw the wind barb for a calm wind.
      • Draw the wind barb for a NW wind blowing 25 knots
      • The minimum speed for a hurricane is 75 mph, can you draw wind barb for 75 mph moving towards Florida from the south?
    • Click on interactive map tutorial, read tutorial.
    • Click on Data Access and Mapping
    • Click on Coast Wind Observations
    • Click on Interactive Map; wait a few moments for map to appear.

      This map is showing you the winds that are blowing over the Gulf of Mexico using real time data from several SECOORA buoys located in the region. If you would like to learn more about how the buoys collect this information click on the SECOORA link.

An oil tanker carrying 50,000 gallons of crude petroleum oil has just run aground on its way to the Port of Tampa. The tanker has run aground directly past the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is leaking 50 gallons of oil each hour. Using what you have learned about oil spills, oil spill response techniques and the SEA-COOS interactive map create a plan to contain and clean up this oil spill. Include in your plan what techniques your team will use to contain or clean up the spill, where the best place is to place your equipment and why you choose to place it there. Present your plan to the class.