The movement of oil under non-breaking waves

Michel C. Boufadel, Ryan Daniel Bechtel, James Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The combined effects of wave kinematics, turbulent diffusion, and buoyancy on the transport of oil droplets at sea were investigated in this work using random walk techniques in a Monte Carlo framework. Six hundred oil particles were placed at the water surface and tracked for 500 wave periods. A dimensionless formulation was presented that allowed reporting distances in terms of the wave length and times in terms of the wave period. Stokes' drift was, expectedly, the major mechanism for horizontal transport. It was also found that plumes that have large terminal rise velocities move faster forward but spread less than those that have small terminal rise velocities. The increase in wave slope (or wave steepness) caused an increase in transport and spreading of the plume. Our results supported treating the oil as completely mixed vertically in a layer near the surface. In the horizontal direction, buoyant plumes had spreading coefficients that are essentially constant after about 200 wave periods. But neutrally buoyant plumes had horizontal spreading coefficients that increased with time (for the simulation time of 500 wave periods). Techniques for generalizing the results for a wide range of wave parameters were presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1056-1065
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Monte Carlo methods
  • Non-breaking waves
  • Ocean
  • Oil
  • Transport


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