Analysis of the behaviour of oil spills in a sector of the Magdalena river (Colombia)
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In 2005, it was estimated that over 70% of oil spills in Colombia affected riverine areas. The Magdalena River is the longest navigable river in the country. It is home to countless species of flora and fauna, and provides important services as both a resource and a river transport route. Hydrocarbons represent 91% of products carried on the river. Mitigation associated with oil spill impacts depends largely on the formulation and implementation of adequate contingency plans, which should incorporate the identification of sources of oil spills, the simulation of the respective dispersion patterns and the characterization of areas that could be affected by a spill. Several different types of oil spills in the Magdalena River were simulated in order to assess the possible spill behavior, based on an analysis of sites at risk of releasing oil into the water stream, and considering the characteristics of the products most frequently transported along the river or used as fuel for boats. Taking into account the seasonal variability in river level and river flow, two different scenarios were simulated: rainy season (which usually floods in the surrounding area of the river) and normal season (when the river is within its usual margins and is navigable on most of its reaches); the dry season was not simulated at the time of this paper because of missing shoreline information. The results show considerable differences in the behaviour of the spilled oil under different climatic seasons. Therefore, this type of analysis is suitable to use for the formulation of refined plans for effective and efficient spill response and mitigation.