Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Ocean Engineering


Ocean Engineering

First Advisor

Malcolm L. Spanding


An oil spill model developed at the University of Rhode Island was used to hindcast the Ixtoc 1 oil well blowout using three pairs of wind and current field inputs. The sensitivity of the model trajectory predictions to these environmental inputs is discussed and comparisons made to overflight field data collected by the United States Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Oil mass balance model predictions and field data derived mass balance estimates are compared for sea surface, water column, and atmospheric partitions. Surface oil trajectory and subsurface elevated hydrocarbon water masses are mapped using the best of the three trajectory simulations: a geostrophic current field derived from seasonally averaged hydrographic data and a wind record recorded at Brownsville, Texas. With oil input parameters and the URI Oilspill Model routines fixed for· the simulations presented, it is shown that none of the sets of environmental data used have adequate scales of resolution to drive the model in a ballistic simulation and achieve trajectory estimates which match the observed trajectories of Ixtoc oil. Model mass balance estimates for oil in several environmental partitions fall reasonably within the bounds of field-data-derived mass balance estimates.