Characterization of the Sedimentation Associated with the Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Depositional Pulse, Initial Response, and Stabilization

  • Rebekka A. LarsonEmail author
  • Gregg R. Brooks
  • Patrick T. Schwing
  • Arne R. Diercks
  • Charles W. Holmes
  • Jeffrey P. Chanton
  • Misael Diaz-Asencio
  • David J. Hollander


The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout led to a depositional pulse in the northeast Gulf of Mexico in the Fall of 2010 associated with an observed Marine Oil Snow Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event. A time series (2010–2016) of annually collected sediment cores at four sites characterize the sedimentary response to the event, post-event, and stabilization/recovery. The depositional pulse (2010–2011) was characterized by high sedimentation rates with little to no bioturbation and large excursions in % silt. The lack of changes in sediment composition indicate that the same sediment sources dominated during the event, but the rates of sedimentation increased. In the years following the event (2011–2012), sedimentation rates were lower, and bioturbation was absent, and the initial excursions in % silt began to become undetectable in the sedimentary record. Between 2013 and 2016, a spatially and temporally variable return of bioturbation was detected at most sites. Sedimentation rates at all sites remained low, but increases in 234Thxs apparent mass accumulation rates indicated a return of bioturbation and potential stabilization and/or recovery of the sedimentary system. The deepest site (~1500 m) did not have any indication of bioturbation as of the 2016 collections, which may reflect a lack of recovery or that bioturbation was never present. In 2012, 210Pbxs age dating began to resolve the depositional pulse suggesting it may be applied to determine changes in the pulse deposit over time, and/or its preservation in the sedimentary record. Factors that may influence preservation include burial, bioturbation, degradation of the pulse signature, and remobilization of pulse sediments.


Sediment Chronology MOSSFA Short-lived radioisotopes Sedimentation 



This chapter is dedicated to Charles “Chuck” Holmes who was a mentor, colleague, and friend. In his career, he advanced geologic studies in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, as well as the methods and applications of short-lived radioisotope geochronology. Without his guidance and knowledge, the use of short-lived radioisotopes for investigating sediment records at high resolution in this study and others would not have been as far-reaching.

Funding Information

This research was made possible by grants from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative through its consortia: The Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) and Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (Deep-C). Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at (doi: 10.7266/N7FJ2F94; 10.7266/N79S1PJZ; 10.7266/N7610XTJ).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebekka A. Larson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gregg R. Brooks
    • 1
  • Patrick T. Schwing
    • 2
  • Arne R. Diercks
    • 3
  • Charles W. Holmes
    • 4
  • Jeffrey P. Chanton
    • 5
  • Misael Diaz-Asencio
    • 6
  • David J. Hollander
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Marine ScienceEckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.University of South Florida, College of Marine ScienceSt. PetersburgUSA
  3. 3.University of Southern Mississippi, School of Ocean Science and EngineeringStennis Space CenterUSA
  4. 4.EnvironchronTallahasseeUSA
  5. 5.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  6. 6.Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher EducationEnsenadaMexico

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