The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the collection of a vast amount of situ and remotely sensed data that can be used to determine the spatiotemporal extent of the oil spill and test advances in oil spill models, verifying their utility for future operational use. This article summarizes observations of hydrocarbon dispersion collected at the surface and at depth and our current understanding of the factors that affect the dispersion, as well as our improved ability to model and predict oil and gas transport. As a direct result of studying the area where oil and gas spread during the DWH oil spill, our forecasting capabilities have been greatly enhanced. State-of-the-art oil spill models now include the ability to simulate the rise of a buoyant plume of oil from sources at the seabed to the surface. A number of efforts have focused on improving our understanding of the influences of the near-surface oceanic layer and the atmospheric boundary layer on oil spill dispersion, including the effects of waves. In the future, oil spill modeling routines will likely be included in Earth system modeling environments, which will link physical models (hydrodynamic, surface wave, and atmospheric) with marine sediment and biogeochemical components.
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