Progress in operational modeling in support of oil spill response

Christopher H. Barker, Vassiliki H. Kourafalou, C. J. Beegle-Krause, Michel Boufadel, Mark A. Bourassa, Steve G. Buschang, Yannis Androulidakis, Eric P. Chassignet, Knut Frode Dagestad, Donald G. Danmeier, Anusha L. Dissanayake, Jerry A. Galt, Gregg Jacobs, Guillaume Marcotte, Tamay Özgökmen, Nadia Pinardi, Rafael V. Schiller, Scott A. Socolofsky, Dalina Thrift-Viveros, Brian ZelenkeAijun Zhang, Yangxing Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident of a massive blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists from government, industry, and academia collaborated to advance oil spill modeling and share best practices in model algorithms, parameterizations, and application protocols. This synergy was greatly enhanced by research funded under the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a 10-year enterprise that allowed unprecedented collection of observations and data products, novel experiments, and international collaborations that focused on the Gulf of Mexico, but resulted in the generation of scientific findings and tools of broader value. Operational oil spill modeling greatly benefited from research during the GoMRI decade. This paper provides a comprehensive synthesis of the related scientific advances, remaining challenges, and future outlook. Two main modeling components are discussed: Ocean circulation and oil spill models, to provide details on all attributes that contribute to the success and limitations of the integrated oil spill forecasts. These forecasts are discussed in tandem with uncertainty factors and methods to mitigate them. The paper focuses on operational aspects of oil spill modeling and forecasting, including examples of international operational center practices, observational needs, communication protocols, and promising new methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number668
Pages (from-to)1-55
Number of pages55
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


  • Ocean modeling
  • Oil spill
  • Oil spill response
  • Operational modeling


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