Movement of spilled oil as predicted by estuarine nontidal drift

Limnology and Oceanography



Information on water movement obtained from bimonthly releases of surface and seabed drifters in the San Francisco Bay and adjacent Pacific Ocean is used to understand major processes controlling dispersal of oil after a spill of 3,200 m3 of Bunker C in the bay in January 1971. River-induced nontidal estuarine circulation was the dominant factor controlling net movement of the oil spilled at the entrance of the bay system, reinforcing ebbing tidal currents and causing the seaward movement of floating oil, which followed paths taken by surface drifters released 3 weeks before the spill. In contrast, some oil formed globules which sank to the near-bottom waters, had the same relative buoyancy as seabed drifters, and moved similarly, beaching in eastern San Pablo Bay after being transported landward in the near-bottom waters. No oil or surface drifters floated into the south bay because surface waters were drifting seaward, away from the south bay. Notable seasonally modulated phenomena which must be considered in predicting surface and near-bottom oil drifts of future spills include a summer (low-river discharge period) diminution of the estuarine circulation mechanism in the north and central bayadjacent ocean region and a seasonal reversal in two-layer drift in the south bay.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Movement of spilled oil as predicted by estuarine nontidal drift
Series title Limnology and Oceanography
DOI 10.4319/lo.1975.20.2.0159
Volume 20
Issue 2
Year Published 1975
Language English
Publisher Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
Contributing office(s) San Francisco Bay-Delta, Pacific Regional Director's Office
Description 15 p.
First page 159
Last page 173
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial San Francisco Bay
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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