Use of chemical concentration changes in coastal sediments to compute oil exposure dates.
Oil spills can result in changes in chemical contaminant concentrations along coastlines. When concentrations are measured along the Gulf of Mexico over time, this information can be used to evaluate oil spill shoreline exposure dates. The objective of this research was to identify more accurate oil exposure dates based on oil spill chemical concentrations changes (CCC) within sediments in coastal zones after oil spills. The results could be used to help improve oil transport models and to improve estimates of oil landings within the nearshore. The CCC method was based on separating the target coastal zone into segments and then documenting the timing of large increases in concentration for specific oil spill chemicals (OSCs) within each segment. The dataset from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill was used to illustrate the application of the method. Some differences in exposure dates were observed between the CCC method and between oil spill trajectories. Differences may have been caused by mixing at the freshwater and sea water interface, nearshore circulation features, and the possible influence of submerged oil that is unaccounted for by oil spill trajectories. Overall, this research highlights the benefit of using an integrated approach to confirm the timing of shoreline exposure.