195 Submesoscale variability enhances shoreline oiling: deepwater blowout simulations in the Agulhas current

Fearon G., Bracco A., Reich D.A. (2024) Marine Pollution Bulletin, 205, art. no. 116526,  DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2024.116526

ABSTRACT: This study critically examines oil spill simulations for a hypothetical 15 day deepwater blowout spill scenario off the east coast of South Africa, coincident with the upper reaches of the Agulhas Current. Our aim is to quantify the impact of submesoscale circulations on the fate of the oil by comparing a submesoscale permitting (2.5 km) versus a mesoscale resolving (7.5 km) ocean model. The bimodal nature of the Agulhas Current plays a crucial role in the fate of the oil. Off the east coast, the relative stability of the current limits shoreline impacts, while downstream the increased variability of the current and its meandering is associated with the generation of submesoscale circulations that drive entrainment of oil onto the continental shelf. Oil entrainment is therefore enhanced in the submesoscale permitting model, and the predicted oiling of South Africa’s south coast is found to vary in concert with seasonally varying winds.

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