BATON ROUGE Gregory Stone, director of LSU's WAVCIS Program and also of the Coastal Studies Institute in the university's School of the Coast & Environment, disagrees with published estimates that more than 75 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident has disappeared.
Stone recently participated in a three-hour flyover of the affected area in the Gulf, where he said that subsurface oil was easily visible from overhead.
"It's most definitely there," said Stone. "It's just a matter of time before it makes itself known again."
Readings from WAVCIS indicate that the direction of the ocean currents near the middle and bottom of the water column are aimed offshore; in other words, this submerged oil will be pushed out to sea, where it will then rise higher into the water column and be washed onto land, particularly during storms.
"It is going to come on shore not consistently, but rather in pulses because it is beneath the surface," he said. "You may get one or two, maybe even five or 10 waves coming ashore with absolutely no oil but eventually, it's going to come ashore." He also cautions that whatever oil doesn't remain suspended in the water column may simply sit atop the seafloor, waiting to be mixed back into the currents.
"It will simply be stirred up during rough seas or changing currents and reintroduced into the water column," he explained.
Another timely concern is hurricane season since September is generally one of the most active months of the year. "Storm surge, when combined with storm waves from a hurricane, could stir up this submerged oil and bring it lots of it onshore and into the wetlands," Stone said. "Even a tropical storm could result in more oil on the shoreline. And that's a reality we need to consider and be prepared for."
Formally known as the Wave-Current-Surge Information System, WAVCIS is based off of a network of buoys, oil platforms sensors and ADCPs, or Acoustic Doppler Current
|Contact: Ashley Berthelot|
Louisiana State University