A New Mixing Diagnostic and Gulf Oil Spill Movement

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Science  22 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6003, pp. 486-489
DOI: 10.1126/science.1194607

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Chaotic advection has served as the paradigm for mixing in fluid flows with simple time dependence. Its skeletal structure is based on analysis of invariant attracting and repelling manifolds in fluid flows. Here we develop a finite-time theory for two-dimensional incompressible fluid flows with arbitrary time dependence and introduce a new mixing diagnostic based on it. Besides stretching events around attracting and repelling manifolds, this allows us to detect hyperbolic mixing zones. We used the new diagnostic to forecast the spatial location and timing of oil washing ashore in Plaquemines Parish and Grand Isle, Louisiana, and Pensacola, Florida, in May 2010 and the flow of oil toward Panama City Beach, Florida, in June 2010.

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