A team of researchers at UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology has produced a computer simulation of how far the oil spilling from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig could travel.
The simulation is based on the spill continuing through Sept. 17, 2010—an anticipated date of when it might actually be stopped. Then that spill is tracked via ocean flow data for a period of about a year.
The oil spreads initially in the Gulf of Mexico, then enters the Loop Current and the narrow Florida Current, and finally the Gulf Stream. “After one year, about 20% of the particles initially released at the Deepwater Horizon location have been transported through the Straits of Florida and into the open Atlantic,” explains Axel Timmermann, a researcher from the International Pacific Research Center, also in SOEST.
Because the simulation does not capture such effects as oil coagulation, formation of tar balls, chemical and microbial degradation–effects which could influence the final impact–the animation is not considered a detailed prediction but rather a scenario that can guide research and mitigation efforts.