Vertical mixing of oil droplets by breaking waves

Pavlo Tkalich, Eng Soon Chan
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2002, 44 (11): 1219-29
Oil spilled on a sea surface can be dispersed by a variety of natural processes, of which the influence of breaking waves is dominant. Breaking waves are able to split the slick into small droplets, facilitating oil mixing in the water column. Vertical dynamics of the droplets plays a major role in the oil mass exchange between the slick and the water column. In this paper a mathematical model of oil droplet mixing by breaking waves is developed. The model uses a kinetic approach to describe the vertical exchange of the droplets at the interface between the slick and the water column. The majority of the coefficients and parameters are conveniently combined into a single "mixing factor". The model is verified using sensitivity analysis and empirical formulae of other authors. The model permits a rapid estimation of the amount of dispersed oil under the breaking waves. The ultimate goal of the research is to parameterise influence of breaking waves on vertical mixing of oil droplets to be used in a general 3-D oil spill model.

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