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Mysterious flotsam in Gulf of Mexico came from Deepwater Horizon rig, WHOI study finds
Date:1/19/2012

ting oil.

In this case, the flotsam served as a harbinger for the oncoming slick, but because different materials can have different leeways, oil spill models may not accurately forecast where oiled debris will head. "Even a small deviation in leeway can, over time, results in significant differences in surface tracks because of typical wind fields," the scientists wrote.

The Coast Guard has a long history of calculating the leeway of various materials, from life jackets to bodies of various sizes and weights, to improve forecasts of where the materials would drift if a ship sank or a plane crashed into the sea. But calculating leeways has not been standard practice in oil spills.

"We never had solid data to make the case until this study," said Merv Fingas, who tracked oil spills for more than 38 years for Environment Canada, which is equivalent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"These results," the study's authors wrote, "provide insights into the fate of debris fields deriving from damaged marine materials and should be incorporated into emergency response efforts and forecasting of coastal impacts during future offshore oil spills."


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Contact: WHOI Media Relations
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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