An accurate method for long-term (weeks to months) projections of oil spill trajectories based on multi-year ensemble analyses of simulated surface and subsurface (z = -800 m) drifters released at the northern Gulf of Mexico spill site is demonstrated during the 2010 oil spill. The simulation compares well with satellite images of the actual oil spill which show that the surface spread of oil was mainly confined to the northern shelf and slope of the Gulf of Mexico, with some (more limited) spreading over the north/northeastern face of the Loop Current, as well as northwestward toward the Louisiana-Texas shelf. At subsurface, the ensemble projection shows drifters spreading south/southwestward, and this tendency agrees well with ADCP current measurements near the spill site during the months of May-July, which also show southward mean currents. An additional model analysis during the spill period (Apr-Jul/2010) confirms the above ensemble projection. The 2010 analysis confirms that the reason for the surface oil spread to be predominantly confined to the northern Gulf shelf and slope is because the 2010 wind was more southerly compared to climatology and also because a cyclone existed north of the Loop Current which moreover was positioned to the south of the spilled site.
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