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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Dec 2018

Research article | 05 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Revisiting the DeepWater Horizon spill: High resolution model simulations of effects of oil droplet size distribution and river fronts

Lars R. Hole1, Knut-Frode Dagestad1, Johannes Röhrs1, Cecilie Wettre1, Vassiliki H. Kourafalou2, Ioannis Androulidakis2, Matthieu Le Hénaff2, Heesook Kang2, and Oscar Garcia-Pineda3 Lars R. Hole et al.
  • 1Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Allegt. 70, 5007 Bergen, Norway
  • 2University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL, USA
  • 3WaterMapping, Gulf Breeze, FL, USA

Abstract. An open source ocean trajectory framework, OpenDrift, is used to simulate the 2010 DeepWater Horizon oil spill. Metocean forcing data are taken from the GoM-HYCOM 1/50° ocean model with realistic river input and ECMWF global forecasts of wind and wave parameters with 1/8° resolution. OpenDrift includes the integrated oil drift module OpenOil, which includes a number of relevant processes, such as emulsification, wave entrainment, and droplet formation. This takes account of the actual oil type/properties, using the ADIOS oil weathering database of NOAA. We investigate the effect of using a newly developed parameterization for oil droplet size distribution, compared to a traditional algorithm. Although the algorithms provide different distributions for a single wave breaking event, we find that the net difference after long time simulations is negligible, indicating that the outcome is robust regarding the choice of parameterization. In both cases, the size of the droplets controls how much oil is present at the surface and hence are subject to wind and Stokes drift. The oil droplet sizes are also relevant for the biological impact. Next, the effect of removing river outflow in the ocean model is investigated in order to showcase effects of river induced fronts on oil spreading. A consistent effect on the amount and location of stranded oil is found, and considerable impact is seen on the location of the surface oil patch.

Lars R. Hole et al.
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Lars R. Hole et al.
Lars R. Hole et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study shows how the Mississippi river influenced the spreading of oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the DeepWater Horizon disaster. High resolution numerical models for ocean and atmosphere circulation are used to force an oil drift model. The circulation is totally different when river input is removed in the ocean model. The study also showcase the importance of the choice of oil droplet size distribution. Model output is compared with satellite observation of surface oil.
This study shows how the Mississippi river influenced the spreading of oil in the Gulf of Mexico...