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USGS Responds to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Barrier-Island Inundation and Overwash: Application to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, an offshore oil drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of Venice, LA. As the oil moves towards the coast, the potential exists for deposition on sandy beaches and in marshes.

The risk of oil deposition on barrier islands can be identified by comparing island elevations to models of storm surge and wave runup.

In this region, with a shallow continental shelf and low-lying barrier islands, a moderate wind can raise water levels at the shoreline. The combination of this wind-driven surge, the astronomical tide, and swash due to breaking waves elevates water levels along the beaches, allowing waves and currents to transport floating oil further landward than would be likely during low tides and calm conditions. The potential exists for water to move across the full width of the islands in locations that are both low and narrow, possibly transporting oil inland into the back bays and marshes.

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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010