Coastal protection by a small scale river plume against oil spills in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Roth, Mathias K.
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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill damaged some beaches along the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGoMex) coast more than others, possibly related to the presence of natural protection mechanisms. In order to optimize future mitigation efforts to protect the coast, these mechanisms should be understood. The NGoMex coast is characterized by relatively long stretches of sandy beach interrupted by tidal inlets creating ebb-tidal river plumes featuring frontal zones that may act as transport barriers. This research investigates to what extent these plumes are capable of protecting the adjacent coast. This is done by means of a combination of a 3D Eulerian flow model and a Lagrangian particle model to track oil pathways and visualize Lagrangian Coherent Structures located at the plume front. The models are verified with measurements from a field experiment adjacent to Destin Inlet, Florida. The effects of wind, tidal range and river discharge on the oil fate are discussed. It was found that wind is the dominant parameter. Offshore wind prevents oil from beaching. During onshore winds, oil is pushed to shore, but near the inlet the plume is effective in reducing the amount of oil washing ashore during the ebbing tide. In general, the plume redistributes the oil but is not capable of preventing oil from beaching. For strong winds, the influence of the plume is reduced.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2018.05.002
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