Author ORCID Identifier

Smith, Leslie: 0000-0003-4144-0945
Rabalais, Nancy N.: 0000-0002-1514-837X

Document Type


Publication Date



The oil/water/dispersant mixture from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was juxtaposed on the Louisiana continental shelf with the annual development of oxygen-depleted bottom waters. There was uncertainty whether the oil from the spill might worsen the extent or severity of the seasonal hypoxic area formation in 2010. The surface and bottom water hydrocarbons in May were elevated compared to in June and July, while the bottom-water dissolved oxygen concentrations were higher in May and June compared to in July. The degradation of oil in the water column or sediments was not known. The results of an empirical orthogonal functions (EOF) analysis of the progression of hypoxia development in May, June and July 2010, and an analysis of conditions in July compared to a 27-year background database, indicated no difference in oxygen concentrations for May, June or July 2010, with or without oil data included, nor any difference in July 2010 compared to other years. The analysis instead indicated that, in all years compared, the hypoxic area increased with higher river discharge, higher nitrate-N load, an easterly (westward) wind and reduced wind speed. Although the analyses did not demonstrate that the oil spill affected, or did not affect, the size of the 2010 hypoxic zone, there was evidence that the 2010 hypoxia season did not differ from the long-term record.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Continental Shelf Research

First Page


Last Page