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USGS Responds to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


figure showing dune and water level

Areas most vulnerable to oil deposition can be identified by comparing island topography to modeled water levels, calculated as the sum of tide, storm surge, and wave runup. The maps presented here identify barrier island locations that may be overwashed or inundated by high tide, surge and wave runup (including wave setup). Should oil be present in an analysis area, the maps can be used to characterize the relative risk and extent of oil deposition.

Map indicating areas at greatest risk to inundation and overwash due to surge and waves

The maps presented here identify areas most at risk to inundation and overwash, for several wave and wind scenarios in the Gulf of Mexico.  For each scenario, representative values for tide, wave height, wave period, and surge were obtained from NOAA models. The total water level, including wave runup, was compared to lidar elevation data, collected by USGS and JALBTCX, to identify barrier-island locations where oil is most likely to be transport and deposited.

Data sources:
Wave Runup: USGS Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms
Waves: NOAA NWS Environmental Modeling Center (WaveWatch3)
Surge: NOAA NCEP Ocean Prediction Center

Disclaimer: This experimental product is based on research results of the USGS National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards Project and is intended to indicate the potential for inundation and overwash caused by predicted tide, storm surge, and wave runup. This product is based on an analysis that simplifies the problem to some of the most important aspects (barrier island topography and predicted water levels). Results apply to open coast environments and does not consider potential impacts along bays, passes, or inland lakes. The actual transport may differ substantially from model results.


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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010