The Nova Southeastern University group, as a part of the Consortium for Advanced Research on
Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment is devoted to the problem of microscale physics involved in
the process of oil spill dispersion during tropical storms.
Under tropical storm conditions, surface oil spills rapidly mix within the upper ocean mixed layer, impacting the marine ecosystem. However, in the case of a continuous oil discharge such as a convective oil plume reaching sea surface or with a surface oil spill drifted and concentrated by wind towards a beach area, significant local dispersion of hydrocarbon products and dispersants is possible into the atmosphere under very high wind speed conditions.
Conducting experiments in the ocean during high wind speed conditions is a big challenge. We study multiphase physics of the air-sea interface and hydrocarbon dispersion during tropical storms using the state of the art computational fluid dynamics software. A model using the Volume of Fluid multi-phase method is allowing us to gain important insight into the physics of the air-sea interface and near-surface processes in hurricane conditions in the presence of oil, emulsion, and dispersants.
The final product of our project is a parameterization for hydrocarbon fluxes at the air-sea interface, which is compatible with the larger scale ocean and atmosphere models that are now under development by CARTHE scientists. We have made good progress in this direction.