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This page first made public: Aug 17, 2010

Use of GNOME to model oil spills

Tim Walsh, Wayland Baptist University

Summary

Using GNOME software (freely available from NOAA) students model various oil spill scenarios in the Galveston Bay area. Students adjust a variety of parameters including pollutant type, changing tides, winds, river flow, and offshore currents and may then observe an animation of the spill's movement and potential dissipation. The level of detail of the GNOME model helps users realize the complexity of an actual oil spill.

Context

Type and level of course
This is used in an undergraduate, upper-division elective, Environmental Geology course.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
None. A minimal background in oceanic coastal features and process (tides, currents) is helpful, but can be detailed during the activity.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
None

Software required for this assignment/activity:
GNOME, available from NOAA Office of Restoration and Response
http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/index.php

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
1.5 - 3 hrs.

Goals

GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
None. Students are expected to use basic grid referencing systems. As a further activity GNOME trajectories may be moved into conventional GIS software for further analysis.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
The primary purpose of this activity is to aid student understanding of the complexity of oil spills.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
As students work through the various scenarios they see how different parameters affect an oil spill. They may be asked to compare different parametric changes both before (prediction) and after (analysis) model runs. As part of final discussion students consider how spills would progress in other locations.

Description of the activity/assignment

Software freely available from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration includes the CAMEO/ALOHA/MARPLOT suite (to model air pollution) and GNOME (to model oil spills). These programs have been used with students in lab sections of an undergraduate Environmental Geology course.
The Galveston Bay area was used in the GNOME models because of familiarity to Texas students and the potential to model hurricane effects on a spill scenario. Students adjust a variety of parameters including pollutant type, changing tides, winds, river flow, and offshore currents. They may then observe an animation of the spill's movement and potential dissipation.
NOAA has created Location Files for different U.S. coastal areas. Each Location File contains information about local oceanographic conditions that GNOME uses to model oil spills in the area covered by that Location File. With each Location File NOAA provides an Example File with scenarios and questions for practice in understanding parameter changes. A modified version of the Galveston Bay Examples File, which was designed to be easier to follow and more explicit in some directions, was used with students.
The GNOME Toolbox contains extensions and .dll files for displaying GNOME trajectories in ArcView 3.x and ArcMap 9.x.
Another extension to this activity is the use of NOAA's response worksheets and software.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The use of modeling software such as GNOME allows students to interact in a high interest medium. The level of detail of the GNOME model helps users realize the complexity of an actual oil spill. Evaluation takes place both while students are using GNOME through faculty observation and dialogue, such as posing specific questions about model results, and also later on examination of completed worksheets.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

URLs and References

The use of modeling software such as GNOME allows students to interact in a high interest medium. The level of detail of the GNOME model helps users realize the complexity of an actual oil spill. Evaluation takes place both while students are using GNOME through faculty observation and dialogue, such as posing specific questions about model results, and also later on examination of completed worksheets.

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