Date of Award

Spring 2021

Project Type


Program or Major

Civil Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Nancy E Kinner

Second Advisor

Katharine Duderstadt

Third Advisor

Diane Foster


Maritime shipping and natural resource development in the Arctic are projected to increase as sea ice coverage decreases, resulting in a greater probability of more and larger oil spills. The increasing risk of Arctic spills emphasizes the need to identify the state-of-the-art oil trajectory and sea ice models and the potential for their integration. The Oil Spill Modeling for Improved Response to Arctic Maritime Spills: The Path Forward (AMSM) project, funded by the Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC), provides a structured approach to gather expert advice to address U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) core needs for decision-making. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Response & Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific support to the USCG FOSC during oil spill response. As part of this scientific support, NOAA OR&R supplies decision support models that predict the fate (including chemical and physical weathering) and transport of spilled oil. Oil spill modeling in the Arctic faces many unique challenges including limited availability of environmental data (e.g., currents, wind, ice characteristics) at fine spatial and temporal resolution to feed models. Despite these challenges, OR&R’s modeling products must provide adequate spill trajectory predictions, so that response efforts minimize economic, cultural and environmental impacts, including those to species, habitats and food supplies. The AMSM project addressed the unique needs and challenges associated with Arctic spill response by: (1) identifying state-of-the-art oil spill and sea ice models, (2) recommending new components and algorithms for oil and ice interactions, (3) proposing methods for improving communication of model output uncertainty, and (4) developing methods for coordinating oil and ice modeling efforts.