How the dispersant Corexit impacts the formation of sinking marine oil snow. Academic Article uri icon


  • The vertical transport of sinking marine oil snow (MOS) and oil-sediment aggregations (OSA) during the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) spill contributed appreciably to the unexpected, and exceptional accumulation of oil on the seafloor. However, the role of the dispersant Corexit in mediating oil-sedimentation is still controversial. Here we demonstrate that the formation of diatom MOS is enhanced by chemically undispersed oil, but inhibited by Corexit-dispersed oil. Nevertheless, the sedimentation rate of oil may at times be enhanced by Corexit application, because of an elevated oil content per aggregate when Corexit is used. A conceptual framework explains the seemingly contradictory effects of Corexit application on the sedimentation of oil and marine particles. The redistribution of oil has central ecological implications, and future decisions on mediating measures or damage assessment will have to take the formation of sinking, oil-laden, marine snow into account.

published proceedings

  • Mar Pollut Bull

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Passow, U., Sweet, J., & Quigg, A.

citation count

  • 51

complete list of authors

  • Passow, Uta||Sweet, Julia||Quigg, Antonietta

publication date

  • January 2017