Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (Engineering)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

James D. Englehardt - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Daniel O. Suman - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

David A. Chin - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Frederick Bloetscher - Outside Committee Member


Sunken oil is difficult to locate because remote sensing techniques cannot as yet provide views of sunken oil over large areas. Moreover, the oil may re-suspend and sink with changes in salinity, sediment load, and temperature, making deterministic fate models difficult to deploy and calibrate when even the presence of sunken oil is difficult to assess. For these reasons, together with the expense of field data collection, there is a need for a statistical technique integrating limited data collection with stochastic transport modeling. Predictive Bayesian modeling techniques have been developed and demonstrated for exploiting limited information for decision support in many other applications. These techniques brought to a multi-modal Lagrangian modeling framework, representing a near-real time approach to locating and tracking sunken oil driven by intrinsic physical properties of field data collected following a spill after oil has begun collecting on a relatively flat bay bottom. Methods include (1) development of the conceptual predictive Bayesian model and multi-modal Gaussian computational approach based on theory and literature review; (2) development of an object-oriented programming and combinatorial structure capable of managing data, integration and computation over an uncertain and highly dimensional parameter space; (3) creating a new bi-dimensional approach of the method of images to account for curved shoreline boundaries; (4) confirmation of model capability for locating sunken oil patches using available (partial) real field data and capability for temporal projections near curved boundaries using simulated field data; and (5) development of a stand-alone open-source computer application with graphical user interface capable of calibrating instantaneous oil spill scenarios, obtaining sets maps of relative probability profiles at different prediction times and user-selected geographic areas and resolution, and capable of performing post-processing tasks proper of a basic GIS-like software. The result is a predictive Bayesian multi-modal Gaussian model, SOSim (Sunken Oil Simulator) Version 1.0rc1, operational for use with limited, randomly-sampled, available subjective and numeric data on sunken oil concentrations and locations in relatively flat-bottomed bays. The SOSim model represents a new approach, coupling a Lagrangian modeling technique with predictive Bayesian capability for computing unconditional probabilities of mass as a function of space and time. The approach addresses the current need to rapidly deploy modeling capability without readily accessible information on ocean bottom currents. Contributions include (1) the development of the apparently first pollutant transport model for computing unconditional relative probabilities of pollutant location as a function of time based on limited available field data alone; (2) development of a numerical method of computing concentration profiles subject to curved, continuous or discontinuous boundary conditions; (3) development combinatorial algorithms to compute unconditional multimodal Gaussian probabilities not amenable to analytical or Markov-Chain Monte Carlo integration due to high dimensionality; and (4) the development of software modules, including a core module containing the developed Bayesian functions, a wrapping graphical user interface, a processing and operating interface, and the necessary programming components that lead to an open-source, stand-alone, executable computer application (SOSim - Sunken Oil Simulator). Extensions and refinements are recommended, including the addition of capability for accepting available information on bathymetry and maybe bottom currents as Bayesian prior information, the creation of capability of modeling continuous oil releases, and the extension to tracking of suspended oil (3-D).


Model; Gaussian; Bayesian; Oil Spill Model; Sunken Oil; Stochastic; Emergency Response; Recovery; Statistical Model; Multimodal; Boundary Conditions; Probability Distribution