Integrating marine oil snow and MOSSFA into oil spill response and damage assessment
Marine snow formation and vertical transport are naturally occurring processes that carry organic matter from the surface to deeper waters, providing food and sequestering carbon. During the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, oil was incorporated with marine snow aggregates, triggering a Marine Oil Snow (MOS) Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event, that transferred a significant percentage of the total released oil to the seafloor. An improved understanding of processes controlling MOS formation and MOSSFA events is necessary for evaluating their impacts on the fate of spilled oil. Numerical models and predictive tools capable of providing scientific support for oil spill planning, response, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment are being developed to provide information for weighing the ecological trade-offs of response options. Here we offer considerations for oil spill response and recovery when assessing the potential for a MOSSFA event and provide tools to enhance decision-making.