The dynamics of crude oil and different surface ocean drifters were compared to study the physical processes that govern the transport and landfall of marine oil spills. In a wave-tank experiment, drifters with drogue did not follow oil slicks. However, patches of undrogued drifters and thin bamboo plates did spread at the same rate and in the same direction as the crude oil slicks. Then, the trajectories of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and 1300 drifters released near the spill source were investigated. Undrogued drifters were transported twice as fast as drogued drifters across the isobaths. 25% of the undrogued drifters landed, versus about 5% of the drogued ones, for the most part, on the same coastline locations where oil was found after Deepwater Horizon. Results highlight the importance of near surface gradients in controlling the cross-shelf transport and landing of surface material on the Gulf of Mexico's northern shores.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science
- Gulf of Mexico
- Oil spill