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University of Miami-led study finds winds played important role in keeping oil away from S. Fla.
Date:7/9/2012

MIAMI July 9, 21012 -- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in spring 2010 is the largest oil spill in the history of the United States, with more than 200 million gallons of crude oil released at about 1,500 m. depth off the Mississippi Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of the accident, the proximity of the intense Loop Current, flowing from the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Straits, raised major concerns that the oil at the surface of the ocean would be headed toward the South Florida and East Atlantic coastal areas. However, the dominant transport of oil and oil products was toward the Northern Gulf coastline, and no oil was observed to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

In a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, University of Miami (UM) scientists Matthieu Le Hnaff, Villy Kourafalou, Claire Paris, Judith Helgers, and Ashwanth Srinivasan, in collaboration with Zachary Aman from the Colorado School of Mines, and Patrick Hogan from the Naval Research Laboratory, use numerical simulations performed at the High Performance Computing core of UM's Center for Computational Science (CCS) to explain an important aspect of the observed oil transport.

The group has demonstrated the crucial role of the wind-induced surface drift on the fate of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. This drift was found to have a strong influence on the displacement of oil, accounting for the influence of winds on the top surface of ocean waters through the generation of waves and additional circulation. These particular wind effects are generally not represented in ocean circulation models and were missing from real time ocean circulation predictions during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Incorporating this wind effect to the ocean currents, the UM scientists performed a novel 3D modeling study of the oil's spread from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to the ocean's surface, which allowed a realistic representation of the evo
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Contact: Barbra Gonzalez, UM Rosenstiel School
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
305-421-4704
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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