Oil Spill Impact Modeling: Development and Validation

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2004 Oct;23(10):2441-56. doi: 10.1897/03-382.


A coupled oil fate and effects model has been developed for the estimation of impacts to habitats, wildlife, and aquatic organisms resulting from acute exposure to spilled oil. The physical fates model estimates the distribution of oil (as mass and concentrations) on the water surface, on shorelines, in the water column, and in the sediments, accounting for spreading, evaporation, transport, dispersion, emulsification, entrainment, dissolution, volatilization, partitioning, sedimentation, and degradation. The biological effects model estimates exposure of biota of various behavior types to floating oil and subsurface contamination, resulting percent mortality, and sublethal effects on production (somatic growth). Impacts are summarized as areas or volumes affected, percent of populations lost, and production foregone because of a spill's effects. This paper summarizes existing information and data used to develop the model, model algorithms and assumptions, validation studies, and research needs. Simulation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is presented as a case study and validation of the model.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Petroleum*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Ships
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants / poisoning*


  • Petroleum
  • Water Pollutants