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Home > iSGTW - 9 June 2010 > Video of the Week - Simulations show scenarios for oil spill

Video of the Week - Simulations show scenarios for oil spill


This animation shows one scenario of how oil released at the location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may move in the upper 65 feet of the ocean. This is not a forecast, but rather, it illustrates a likely dispersal pathway of the oil for roughly four months following the spill. It assumes oil spilling continuously from April 20 to June 20. The colors represent a dilution factor ranging from red (most concentrated) to beige (most diluted). The dilution factor does not attempt to estimate the actual barrels of oil at any spot; rather, it depicts how much of the total oil from the source will be carried elsewhere by ocean currents. For example, areas showing a dilution factor of 0.01 would have one-hundredth the concentration of oil present at the spill site.

The animation is based on a computer model simulation, using a virtual dye, that assumes weather and current conditions similar to those that occur in a typical year. It is one of a set of six scenarios released on 3 June that simulate possible pathways the oil might take under a variety of oceanic conditions. Each of the six scenarios shows the same overall movement of oil through the Gulf to the Atlantic and up the East Coast. However, the timing and fine-scale details differ, depending on the details of the ocean currents in the Gulf. Visualization by Tim Scheitlin and Mary Haley, NCAR, based on model simulations.


Unlike the simulation featured in this week’s top feature, this model focuses on how the oil will spread over the course of four months.

To create these simulations, NCAR-scientist Synte Peacock and her team assumed continuous oil leakage beginning 20 April, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, and ending on 20 June.

Peacock’s team used the Parallel Ocean Program – the ocean component of the Community Climate System Model – on massively parallel computer systems at the New Mexico Computer Applications Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Next, the team plans to run similar simulations over a longer time span.

For more information about this research, please visit the UCAR press release. Or to see all six simulations, click here.

-Miriam Boon, iSGTW

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