Tracking the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Modeling Perspective



[1] The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was caused by a drilling rig explosion on 20 April 2010 that killed 11 people. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history and presented an unprecedented threat to Gulf of Mexico marine resources. Although oil gushing to the surface diminished after the well was capped, on 15 July 2010, much remains to be known about the oil and the dispersants beneath the surface, including their trajectories and effects on marine life. A system for tracking the oil, both at the surface and at depth, was needed for mitigation efforts and ship survey guidance. Such a system was implemented immediately after the spill by marshaling numerical model and satellite remote sensing resources available from existing coastal ocean observing activities [e.g., Weisberg et al., 2009]. Analyzing this system's various strengths and weaknesses can help further improve similar systems designed for other emergency responses.


This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, NOAA (through the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms and IOOS programs), and NASA. The HYCOM Consortium, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and Naval Oceanographic Office (through the Northern Gulf Institute) provided model fields for ensemble trajectory forecasts. Satellite data were provided by NASA, NOAA, and F. Muller-Karger (USF). We particularly thank our colleagues A. Barth (University of Liège), E. Chassignet (Florida State University), R. He and K. H. Hyun (NCSU), O. M. Smedstad and P. Hogan (HYCOM Consortium), C. Lozano (NCEP), and F. Bub (Naval Oceanographic Office). This is CPR Contribution 11.