Moving source identification in an uncertain marine flow: Mediterranean Sea application

Mohamad Abed El Rahman Hammoud, Issam Lakkis, Omar Knio, Ibrahim Hoteit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Identifying marine pollutant sources is essential to assess, contain and minimize their risk. We propose a Lagrangian Particle Tracking algorithm (LPT) to study the transport of passive tracers advected by an uncertain flow field described by an ensemble of realizations of the ocean currents, and to identify the source parameters of the release in backward mode. Starting from a probability map describing the distribution of a pollutant, reverse tracking is used to generate probabilistic inverse maps by integrating it with the ensemble of flow fields backward in time. An objective function based on the probability-weighted distance between the resulting inverse maps and the source trajectory is then minimized to identify the likely source of pollution. We conduct numerical experiments to demonstrate the efficiency of the proposed algorithm in the Mediterranean Sea. Passive tracers are released along the path of a ship and propagated with an ensemble of realistic flow fields to generate a probability map, which is then used for the inverse problem of source identification. Our results suggest that the proposed algorithm captures the release time and source of pollution, successfully pinpointing to the release parameters up to two weeks back in time in certain case studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108435
JournalOcean Engineering
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-12-25
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG, REP/1/3268-01-01
Acknowledgements: Research reported in this publication was supported by the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) CRG Award No. OSR-CRG2018-3711 and Virtual Red Sea Initiative (Grant #REP/1/3268-01-01) and by the University Research Board of the American University of Beirut (AUB). We acknowledge the use of E.U. Copernicus Marine Service Information available at


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