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!
How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering