Development and application of system-wide numerical models is indispensable in assessing transport and distribution of oil-derived substances in the Gulf of Mexico. The overall modeling study should include: to develop a three-dimensional model package for the Alabama coastal waters, to validate the model using the data collected by other projects funded by the MESC BP GRI Rapid Response as well as existing data, and to apply the model package to study target processes important for transport and distribution of oil-derived substances.
The modeling domain should be the Alabama coastal waters, including northern Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Bay, eastern Mississippi Sound, and Mobile River systems. The model package should include models for circulation, scalar transport, and suspended sediment transport, so that the model package can be applied to oil-derived substances that may be present in the water as dissolved or particulate forms and to those associated with sediment particles. The important target processes may include shelf dynamics (e.g., circulation pattern on the shelf, dynamics of Mobile Bay plume, and stratification on the shelf), shelf-Bay exchange, Bay dynamics (e.g., along-channel transport, across-channel transport, and stratification in the Bay), and resuspension of oil-induced sediments and the subsequent transport.
In this initial effort for 2011, we propose to develop a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model accounting for both barotropic and baroclinic pressure gradient forces for the above-mentioned modeling domain; and to conduct preliminary validation of the model using the existing data. This model can be used in the subsequent studies to describe the distribution, dispersion, and ultimate fate of oil-derived substances on the shelf and in estuaries and bays.