The Deepwater horizon oil slick: Simulations of river front effects and oil droplet size distribution

Lars Robert Hole, Knut Frode Dagestad, Johannes Röhrs, Cecilie Wettre, Vassiliki H. Kourafalou, Yannis Androulidakis, Heesook Kang, Matthieu Le Hénaff, Oscar Garcia-Pineda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The effect of river fronts on oil slick transport has been shown using high resolution forcing models and a fully fledged oil drift model, OpenOil. The model was used to simulate two periods of the 2010 DeepWater Horizon oil spill. Metocean forcing data were taken from the data-assimilative GoM-HYCOM 1/50° ocean model with realistic daily river input and global forecast products of wind and wave parameters from ECMWF. The simulations were initialized from satellite observations of the surface oil patch. The effect of using a newly developed parameterization for oil droplet size distribution was studied and compared to a traditional algorithm. Although the algorithms provide different distributions for a single wave breaking event, it was found that the net difference after long simulations is negligible, indicating that the outcome is robust regarding the choice of parameterization. The effect of removing the river outflow was investigated to showcase effects of river induced fronts on oil spreading. A consistent effect on the amount and location of stranded oil and a considerable impact on the location of the surface oil patch were found. During a period with large river outflow (20-27 May 2010), the total amount of stranded oil is reduced by about 50% in the simulation with no river input. The results compare well with satellite observations of the surface oil patch after simulating the surface oil patch drift for 7-8 days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number329
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • DeepWater Horizon
  • Modeling
  • Observations
  • Oil spill
  • OpenDrift
  • OpenOil
  • River fronts
  • Satellite
  • Simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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