Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year 6-8 Investigator Grants (RFP-V)

Project Overview

Investigation of Oil Spill Transport in a Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment Using Simulation and Laboratory Studies

Principal Investigator
University of Miami
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Member Institutions
University of Miami, University of Minnesota


This proposal aims at studying the transport of oil droplets in upper oceans subject to actions of Langmuir cells and breaking waves and the transport of oiled sprays in wind over waves, as part of theme 1 of the GoMRI Request for Proposals. The focus of study is on the effects of wind-wave-current interactions when the wave influences are significant, including hurricane conditions. The feedback mechanisms among wind, waves, and upper ocean currents and turbulence play an essential role in the transport of oil slicks. Despite their importance, due to the complexity of the problem, previous simulation and measurement studies were unable to adequately capture the interaction dynamics. Existing models often reply on simplified approximations, such as flat sea surface treatment, vortex force approximation of Langmuir cells using uniform and constant Stokes drift, ad hoc prescribed sea surface roughness for marine atmospheric boundary layer. In this study, novel models will be developed with the above limitations removed. Innovative measurements in the newly constructed Surge-Structure-Atmosphere INteraction (SUSTAIN) laboratory at University of Miami will be performed. The ultimate goal of this joint experiment and simulation study is to obtain substantially deepened physical understanding of and much improved modeling and prediction capability for the wind-wave-ocean interaction dynamics and the effects on oil transport.

The specific objective of this study are: (i) establish a high-fidelity computational framework for the interactions among wind, waves, and currents in upper oceans; (ii) use the unique capabilities of windwave tanks in the SUSTAIN laboratory to obtain accurate measurement data in air and water with wave phases resolved; (iii) use the laboratory study to provide input for the LES; (iv) establish an advanced simulation tool for the modeling and prediction of oil transport in both water and air under a variety of wind and wave conditions; and (v) assess the effects of wind and waves with various intensities, including hurricane conditions, on the transport of oil.

Project Research Overview (2016):

An overview of the proposed research activities from the GoMRI 2016 Meeting in Tampa.

Direct link to the Research Overview presentation.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.