Scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science were part of a national research team to find two plumes of oil-based pollutants downwind of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill. In a study published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, the research team offers new insight into the mechanism by which the crude oil traveled from the sea surface to the atmosphere.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led research team collected data of atmosphere gas and aerosol concentrations during two flights, on June 8 and June 10, aboard a specially equipped NOAA WP-3 Orion aircraft.
“By having such a well-defined source of the evaporating oil we were able to investigate how aerosols form in the atmosphere,” said UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Elliot Atlas, a co-author of the paper. Atlas regularly uses similar techniques to study aerosol formation and air pollution downwind of major U.S. cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles.
The data revealed that two plumes of hydrocarbons were released into the atmosphere by the surface oil and from the smoke associated with the burning of oil during cleanup efforts. The first was a narrower three-kilometer (1.8-mile) wide hydrocarbon plume downwind of the spill site. The researchers suggest that this was the result of “direct evaporation of fresh oil on the sea surface.”
The second, a larger 40-kilometer (24-mile)-wide plume, contained higher concentrations of organic aerosols and was “formed from vapors released from the oil and the condensation of their atmospheric oxidation products onto existing particles,” according to the study’s authors. The wider oil vapor-based plume contributed to the formation of secondary organic aerosols, which are the result of oil vapor reacting in the atmosphere.
The researchers observed that methane and other light hydrocarbons dissolved in the water column, while other, less volatile components of crude oil, made their way to the surface and into the atmosphere.
Claire Paris, a UM Rosenstiel School assistant professor of Applied Marine Physics, and UM Rosenstiel School researcher Matthieu Le Hénaff, in collaboration with Ashwanth Srinivasan of UM’s Center for Computational Science produced numerical simulations of the oil spill during and following the airborne measurements by the NOAA-led team.
“These simulations of fresh oil reaching the sea surface and aged oil spreading in a wider area downwind are key to understanding the evaporation processes of more or less volatile hydrocarbon compounds,” said Paris, a biophysical modeler. “The model predictions that included oil behavior, advection, and wind drift helped link the measured organic aerosols to their source and mechanism of emission.”
UM Rosenstiel School co-investigators Paris, Srinivasan and Meteorology and Physical Oceanography Research Associate Professor Villy Kourafalou were awarded a National Science Foundation RAPID grant in July 2010 to model the three-dimensional dynamics of the oil spill and assess its fate and extent.
This study provides researchers with a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of air pollutants and their secondary chemical products on the environment, human health and global climate change.
“The study also shows the benefit of having the right scientific capabilities available for rapid hazard response,” said Atlas, who was part of a research team studying air quality in California that was called in to take air measurements during the oil spill. “It was fortuitous that we were able to get out there quickly with the necessary instruments and expertise, which turned out to be very useful.”
The study, titled “Organic Aerosol Formation Downwind from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” was published in the March 11 issue of the journal Science.About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
Barbra Gonzalez | EurekAlert!
When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences