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Oil on the Water – Interactive Graphic
The physics of oil spills
The Deepwater Horizon spill has released millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the most devasting oil spill in U.S. history. It is clear that the spilled oil will have a large impact on the Gulf coast for years to come, but what happens to the oil in the first hours, days and weeks as it interacts wiht the surrounding elements?
There are many physical and chemical processes, collectively known as weathering, that change the oil’s properties and behavior after it is spilled into the ocean.
Many of these weathering processes happen at the same time, but as time goes on, some processes become less important. Below is a representation fo each weathering process’s relative importance over time.