Deepwater Horizon oil in Gulf of Mexico waters after 2 years: transformation into the dissolved organic matter pool. Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent work has shown the presence of anomalous dissolved organic matter (DOM), with high optical yields, in deep waters 15 months after the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Here, we continue to use the fluorescence excitation-emission matrix (EEM) technique coupled with parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) modeling, measurements of bulk organic carbon, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), oil indices, and other optical properties to examine the chemical evolution and transformation of oil components derived from the DWH in the water column of the GOM. Seawater samples were collected from the GOM during July 2012, 2 years after the oil spill. This study shows that, while dissolved organic carbon (DOC) values have decreased since just after the DWH spill, they remain higher at some stations than typical deep-water values for the GOM. Moreover, we continue to observe fluorescent DOM components in deep waters, similar to those of degraded oil observed in lab and field experiments, which suggest that oil-related fluorescence signatures, as part of the DOM pool, have persisted for 2 years in the deep waters. This supports the notion that some oil-derived chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) components could still be identified in deep waters after 2 years of degradation, which is further supported by the lower DIC and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) associated with greater amounts of these oil-derived components in deep waters, assuming microbial activity on DOM in the current water masses is only the controlling factor of DIC and pCO2 concentrations.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

altmetric score

  • 4.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Bianchi, T. S., Osburn, C., Shields, M. R., Yvon-Lewis, S., Young, J., Guo, L., & Zhou, Z.

citation count

  • 48

complete list of authors

  • Bianchi, Thomas S||Osburn, Christopher||Shields, Michael R||Yvon-Lewis, Shari||Young, Jordan||Guo, Laodong||Zhou, Zhengzhen

publication date

  • August 2014