112 Modeling study on oil spill transport in the Great Lakes: The unignorable impact of ice cover

Song Y., Fujisaki-Manome A., Barker C.H., MacFadyen A., Kessler J., Titze D., Wang J. (2024) Journal of Environmental Management, 358, art. no. 120810, DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2024.120810

ABSTRACT: The rise in oil trade and transportation has led to a continuous increase in the risk of oil spills, posing a serious worldwide concern. However, there is a lack of numerical models for predicting oil spill transport in freshwater, especially under icy conditions. To tackle this challenge, we developed a prediction system for oil with ice modeling by coupling the General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME) model with the Great Lakes Operational Forecast System (GLOFS) model. Taking Lake Erie as a pilot study, we used observed drifter data to evaluate the performance of the coupled model. Additionally, we developed six hypothetical oil spill cases in Lake Erie, considering both with and without ice conditions during the freezing, stable, and melting seasons spanning from 2018 to 2022, to investigate the impacts of ice cover on oil spill processes. The results showed the effective performance of the coupled model system in capturing the movements of a deployed drifter. Through ensemble simulations, it was observed that the stable season with high-concentration ice had the most significant impact on limiting oil transport compared to the freezing and melting seasons, resulting in an oil-affected open water area of 49 km2 on day 5 with ice cover, while without ice cover it reached 183 km2. The stable season with high-concentration ice showed a notable reduction in the probability of oil presence in the risk map, whereas this reduction effect was less prominent during the freezing and melting seasons. Moreover, negative correlations between initial ice concentration and oil-affected open water area were consistent, especially on day 1 with a linear regression R-squared value of 0.94, potentially enabling rapid prediction. Overall, the coupled model system serves as a useful tool for simulating oil spills in the world’s largest freshwater system, particularly under icy conditions, thus enhancing the formulation of effective emergency response strategies.

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