Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BP / Gulf Oil Spill - 68,000 Square Miles of Direct Impact

Fingers crossed: it looks like the cap on BP's Macondo well will hold until the relief well intercepts and permanently plugs it, and no more oil from this blowout will enter the Gulf.

So here's a map showing the cumulative oil slick footprint for the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill, created by overlaying all of the oil slicks and sheen mapped by SkyTruth on satellite images taken between April 25 and July 16, 2010, blogged here, and published in our gallery.

Cumulatively, the surface oil slicks and sheen observed on these satellite images directly impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean - as big as the state of Oklahoma:

Map showing cumulative oil slick footprint from BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill, based on satellite images taken between April 25 and July 16, 2010

7 comments:

  1. Wow, John! I guess everything is just A-OK squeeky clean now eh? All the surface oil is dissipating quickly!
    Oh snap! Silly us-es? All is well after all!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/us/28spill.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Whoa - nobody here is even suggesting that everything is A-OK. We do have to be honest: the surface oil slicks appear to be disapppearing, based on satellite images taken over the past several days.

    BUT - in talking to the reporter I emphasized the unknowns and unseens: impact to marshes and beaches from now-buried and embedded oil; impact from plumes of oil still lurking beneath the surface; long-term impacts from this massive spill. The article raises those issues:

    "The effect on sea life of the large amounts of oil that dissolved below the surface is still a mystery. Two preliminary government reports on that issue have found concentrations of toxic compounds in the deep sea to be low, but the reports left many questions, especially regarding an apparent decline in oxygen levels in the water.

    And understanding the effects of the spill on the shorelines that were hit, including Louisiana’s coastal marshes, is expected to occupy scientists for years. Fishermen along the coast are deeply skeptical of any declarations of success, expressing concern about the long-term effects of the chemical dispersants used to combat the spill and of the submerged oil, particularly on shrimp and crab larvae that are the foundation of future fishing seasons."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Of course the oil is disappearing. Oil naturally decomposes in about three weeks in seawater. A good part goes into the air. A lot breaks into small heavy droplets and sinks, and some turns into tar balls. However, what few are saying is that oil decomposes into secondary products; many of which are more hazardous than the oil itself. These secondary products can cause long term effects some of which can be uncorrectable. So, yes the oil is gone, but the problem is still there! That is why it is always better to mop up the oil rather than disperse it as BP just did.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Robert- Could you elaborate about the oil decomposition? This is fascinating and important for all of us to know!
    THANKS

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oil is hydrocarbon. H and C. Every high school chemistry student is taught that hydrocarbons eventually end up as CO2 and H2O, carbon dioxide and water. It is the most basic chemistry there is.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I second that request, please elaborate on the secondary chemicals Robert.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Pressed Rat / Warthog - sure, once it's been oxidized (burned or metabolized), but this is a serious oversimplification. There is a long way, chemically speaking, between "now" and "eventually." This transformation of hydrocarbon doesn't happen instantly unless you light it on fire.

    Crude oil is also a complex mixture of many different types of hydrocarbon, each with its own set of properties, including toxicity and metabolic pathway.

    ReplyDelete