Characterization of the Sedimentation Associated With the Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Depositional Pulse, Initial Response, and Stabilization

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Marine Science


The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout led to a depositional pulse in the northeast Gulf of Mexico in the Fall of 2010 associated with an observed Marine Oil Snow Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event. A time series (2010–2016) of annually collected sediment cores at four sites characterize the sedimentary response to the event, post-event, and stabilization/recovery. The depositional pulse (2010–2011) was characterized by high sedimentation rates with little to no bioturbation and large excursions in % silt. The lack of changes in sediment composition indicate that the same sediment sources dominated during the event, but the rates of sedimentation increased. In the years following the event (2011–2012), sedimentation rates were lower, and bioturbation was absent, and the initial excursions in % silt began to become undetectable in the sedimentary record. Between 2013 and 2016, a spatially and temporally variable return of bioturbation was detected at most sites. Sedimentation rates at all sites remained low, but increases in 234Thxs apparent mass accumulation rates indicated a return of bioturbation and potential stabilization and/or recovery of the sedimentary system. The deepest site (~1500 m) did not have any indication of bioturbation as of the 2016 collections, which may reflect a lack of recovery or that bioturbation was never present. In 2012, 210Pbxs age dating began to resolve the depositional pulse suggesting it may be applied to determine changes in the pulse deposit over time, and/or its preservation in the sedimentary record. Factors that may influence preservation include burial, bioturbation, degradation of the pulse signature, and remobilization of pulse sediments.

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Deep Oil Spills

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