mating hydrodynamic data. To reflect three-dimensional flow and mixing, NOAA is implementing simple schemes to handle vertically varying diffusion and horizontal velocity fields. There have been some attempts to incorporate surface flow measurements into real-time oil transport models (Hodgins et al., 1993; Ojo and Bonner, 2002). However, these require pre-installation of data acquisition (e.g., high frequency radar) and transmission systems, and are currently applicable only to horizontal surface current and diffusion with relatively coarse grid resolution—not for the three-dimensional distributions needed for the three-dimensional modeling (Ojo and Bonner, 2002). The growing availability of ocean observing systems in coastal waters will likely improve the availability of real-time data useful for improved modeling of physical processes. Unlike real-time model applications, a pre-planning assessment uses hypothetical environmental conditions and oil properties, but can use detailed models, including complex three-dimensional flow fields. Thus, real-time and pre-planning modeling efforts should complement each other to provide better information to a decisionmaker.
One of the greatest weaknesses in correlating laboratory-scale and mesoscale experiments with conditions in the open ocean derives from a lack of understanding the turbulence regime in all three systems. Likewise, one of the biggest uncertainties in computer modeling of oil spill behavior (with and without dispersant addition) comes from obtaining appropriate horizontal and vertical diffusivities. It is difficult to integrate all interacting transport and fate processes and oil properties to predict how much oil will be found in specific areas during an actual oil spill without the use of models. Relevant state and federal agencies, industry, and appropriate international partners should develop a coordinated program to obtain needed information about turbulence regimes at a variety of interrelated scales. This effort should include a field program to measure the upper sea-surface turbulence, under a variety of conditions with particular emphasis on quantifying horizontal and vertical diffusivities and the rate of energy dissipation, which can be compared to similar turbulent regimes in mesocosm systems.