Improved support system facilitates the decontamination of oil in seas covered by ice

Researchers at the SMHI are set to improve their forecasts of spill and discharge diffusion that occurs in the Baltic Sea when the sea is ice covered. The work forms part of a project that will facilitate risk management and decontamination in the case of accidents or incidents in the Baltic Sea during winter.

Ice on the sea changes the diffusion pathways in the event of spillages and discharges and makes it more difficult to decontaminate and remove e.g. oil that has been spilled or discharged.

“Through improvements in the forecast models, we can increase knowledge about the pathway which the discharge takes from a vessel, even when there is an ice covering. This facilitates the decontamination process,” explains Anders Höglund, researcher within Oceanography at SMHI.

Part of the tool for diffusion forecasts

The model is usable both when a discharge or spill has taken place and also in the planning of - and risk assessment concerning - vessel traffic in the Baltic Sea.

The improvements will form part of Seatrack Web, SMHI’s internet-based tool providing an animation of how currents, winds and ice conditions are subject to change hour by hour and how pollutants, for example oil, undergo change and drift.

The decontamination of oil in winter.
The decontamination of oil in winter. An ice-covered sea means that a discharge of e.g. oil can freeze into the ice, be deposited in the hollows under the ice or be conveyed by currents beneath the ice far from the original incident or accident site. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard Foto Kustbevakningen

Countries around the Baltic Sea work together

The development forms part of the STORMWINDS project. This concerns strategic and operational risk management in wintertime for maritime transport systems under present and future climate conditions. The project is led by Aalto University in Finland with project members from Finland, Estonia, Russia and Sweden. It is funded by the BONUS programme, with the Swedish Research Council Formas as Swedish co-financier. The project continues for a period of three years.

BONUS funds research and development in the Baltic Sea during the period 2010-2017. The programme is intended to bring together researchers from the marine, maritime and socioeconomic sectors in order to ensure a strong, scientific knowledge base in response to the many challenges that the Baltic Sea region now faces.