FIGURE 4-1 Major open-ocean oil fate and transport processes.

SOURCE: NRC, 1985.

surface transport of slicks, which is important because the shape, thickness, and location of a slick affect the ability to effectively apply dispersants. The second subsection deals with vertical transport, which is responsible for the initial dilution of dispersed oil. Finally, the last subsection deals with horizontal subsurface transport, which is responsible for the ultimate dilution of dispersed oil.

Surface Transport

Oil spilled directly on a calm water surface spreads radially by gravity and is resisted by inertia, viscosity, and surface tension until the slick reaches a thickness of ~0.1 mm. Fay (1969), Hoult (1972), and others have modeled this spreading under idealized conditions (e.g., instantaneous spill, no wind, no waves). Application of chemical dispersants can temporarily affect this spreading through the phenomenon of herding.

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