The Gulf oil slick from space – NOT

UPDATE:

The press release from Goddard Space Flight Center showing sunglints suggesting they are all from the oil slick is wrong. Satellite specialist Dr. Roy Spencer writes in to show me a different MODIS/AQUA image from three days ago that shows clearly where the slick is and is not:

http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=USA7.2010137.terra.2km

high res 1 km image here

To lend credence to Dr. Spencer’s claim, I searched and found another MODIS/AQUA image that shows a splotch of what looks exactly like what GSFC describes as the “gray-beige colored spill”, except this is all along the west coast of Florida. Clearly it is an optical effect, not an oil spill.

http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=USA7.2010132.terra.2km.jpg

This suggests then that the GSFC press release has misidentified the optical effect as being the entire Gulf oil spill. The spill is there, as illustrated in the image at top, but it is not the entire “gray-beige colored” area seen in the GSFC press release image. – Anthony

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UPDATE2: Skytruth has a better image which shows the extent, also taken on May 18th, but at much closer zoom level.

Envisat ASAR image, May 18, 2010. Image courtesy CSTARS.

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There is also an overlay showing the sat image with Google Earth, that gives a better idea of scale, after the “Continue reading => ” line.

Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico

GSFC Via Eurekalert:

At 3 p.m. EDT on May 18, NASA’s Aqua satellite swept over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from its vantage point in space and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument captured sunglints in a visible image of the spill.

The visible image showed three bright areas of sunglint within the area of the gray-beige colored spill. Sunglint is a mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water’s surface. In calm waters, the rounded image of the sun would be seen in a satellite image. However, the waves in the Gulf blurred the reflection and created an appearance of three bright areas in a line on the ocean’s surface.

According to the May 18 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web update of the Deepwater Horizon incident, “satellite imagery on May 17 indicated that the main bulk of the oil is dozens of miles away from the Loop Current, but that a tendril of light oil has been transported down close to the Loop Current.”

The May 18 NOAA update also noted that “NOAA extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf into the northern portion of the loop current as a precautionary measure to ensure seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers. The closed area is now slightly less than 19 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal waters.”

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Here is a Google Earth overlay view of the area shown in the photo:

click to enlarge

Other image sizes available:

Satellite: Aqua – Pixel size: 1km – Alternate pixel size: 500m | 250m

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108 thoughts on “The Gulf oil slick from space – NOT

  1. I always wonder what would happen if an accident occurs from China’s drilling in the area of the Gulf. How responsive and quick to act would they be. I hope such an even never occurs, but accidents do happen. Interesting thought for us to ponder.

  2. So I’m not quite sure what I’m looking at…
    Is the entire grayish area along the coast at the top of the picture supposed to be part of the oil sheen? Or are we only supposed to be looking at the shiny parts?
    Or is that just oil sheen while the shiny part is actually thicker oil?

  3. Disgusting. This is the “true cost” of the oil we depend on. We just have been fortunate enough to been shielded from it for so long. But we’re finally paying the price. This is a disaster of epic proportions, and it’s plain as day in that photograph.

  4. This catastrophe is virtually inexcusable. 11 lives, dozens of injured, hideous environmental impact. Poor management, poor engineering, poor planning, and yes, poor government oversight. No contingency planning, no spill containment models, no well-capping technology (just one Rube Goldberg device after another so far). The oil on the Gulf waters may have only one tiny benefit. Wave propagation during a hurricane will be reduced as “oil on troubled waters” does actually reduce wave heights.

  5. Looks as though the most significant ecological damage from this spill will be the result of the throngs of media trampling the delicate grasses along the barrier islands in the Gulf.

  6. The large and uniform areas are sun glint from the normal sea surface, as can be seen off the coast of Florida in the second image.
    One the first image, there is a thin structure superimposed upon the standard sun glint area, which is caused by the oil slick.
    Wave patterns and other optical effects will influnce sun glint from the surface of the ocean, but with a little thought, can easily be identified.
    My team is currently using multi-spectral cameras on aircraft along the Louisiana coastline and they were surprized how difficult it was to identify the oil. For someone that had done this before during the first gulf war, I understood why they were having so much trouble. Subtle changes in sea surface temperature in the thermal IR bands or using sun glints are the best methods for detecting oil contamination regions.
    However, with both methods, you must understand what the normal sea surface looks like and identify the regions that are different.

  7. I wonder if the oil sheen will have any effect on evaporation?
    Will the dark oil cause the Gulf to absorb more sunlight and warm?
    Could it weaken or strengthen a Hurricane?
    We may salvage an unintended experiment out of this disaster.

  8. Of course the pictures say a lot. The pics are too far away to even show a single 1,000 foot tanker or 400 foot drilling platform.

  9. If this had not been man made the same would have happened any way from natural causes! Yes the greatest environmental damage will be from the people trying to stop environmental damage as the cure in this case will be worse than the ill!

  10. hswiseman says:
    May 20, 2010 at 10:16 am
    … hideous environmental impact.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jsHOIV3zNSlEI7jaCN2uslI0cjTwD9FPHIKO4
    “David Krebs, who owns a local seafood market, said the town is tired and frustrated by the continued restrictions and lack of information about the spill.
    Local fishermen are catching plenty of fish in non-restricted areas closer to shore, the weather is great, the fish are healthy and the beaches are oil-free, Krebs said.
    The perception that oil has already hit and seafood is unsafe has devastated the tourist-driven economy, he said.
    “This is just more fear factor and hype,” he said, “but if people are afraid to come on vacation here now and there was already this big wonderment about the economy anyway then the perception is everything.”
    Analysts said it doesn’t appear the new restriction will hurt most U.S. seafood chains and retailers.”

  11. Observations of Benjamin Franklin
    On November 7, 1773 Franklin wrote a letter to one Doctor Brownrigg. Extracts of that letter are given below.
    “…I had, when a youth, read and smiled at PLINY’S account of a practice among the seamen of his time, to still the waves in a storm by pouring oil into the sea; which he mentions, as well as the use made of the oil by the divers…
    “In 1757, being at sea in a fleet of 96 sail bound against Louisbourg, I observed the wakes of two of the ships to be remarkably smooth, while all the others were ruffled by the wind, which blew fresh. Being puzzled with the differing appearance, I at last pointed it out to our captain, and asked him the meaning of it? ‘The cooks, says he, have, I suppose, been just emptying their greasy water through the scuppers, which has greased the sides of those ships a little;’ and this answer he gave me with an air of some little contempt, as to a person ignorant of what every body else knew. In my own mind I at first slighted his solution, tho’ I was not able to think of another. But recollecting what I had formerly read in PLINY, I resolved to make some experiment of the effect of oil on water, when I should have opportunity.
    “Afterwards being again at sea in 1762, I first observed the wonderful quietness of oil on agitated water, in the swinging glass lamp I made to hang up in the cabin, as described in my printed papers, page 438 of the fourth edition. – This I was continually looking at and considering, as an appearance to me inexplicable. An old sea captain, then a passenger with me, thought little of it, supposing it an effect of the same kind with that of oil put on water to smooth it, which he said was a practice of the BERMUDIANS when they would strike fish, which they could not see, if the surface of the water was ruffled by the wind. This practice I had never before heard of, and was obliged to him for the information; tho’ I thought him mistaken as to the sameness of the experiment, the operations being different; as well as the effects. In one case, the water is smooth till the oil is put on, and then become agitated. In the other it is agitated before the oil is applied, and then becomes smooth. – The same gentleman told me, he had heard it was a practice with the fishermen of LISBON when about to return into the river, (if they saw before them too great a surf upon the bar, which they apprehended might fill their boats in passing) to empty a bottle or two of oil into the sea, which would suppress the breakers, and allow them to pass safely: a confirmation of this I have not since had an opportunity of obtaining. But discoursing of it with another person, who had often been in the Mediterranean, I was informed that the divers there, who, when under water in their business, need light, which the curling of the surface interrupts by the refractions of so many little waves, let a small quantity of oil now and then out of their mouths, which rising to the surface smooths it, and permits the light to come down to them. – All these informations I at times revolved in my mind, and wondered to find no mention of them in our books of experimental philosophy.
    “At length being at CLAPHAM where there is, on the common, a large pond, which I observed to be one day very rough with the wind, I fetched out a cruet of oil, and dropt a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface; but the effect of smoothing the waves was not produced; for I had applied it first on the leeward side of the pond, where the waves were the largest, and the wind drove my oil back upon the shore. I then went to the windward side, where they began to form; and there the oil, though not more than a teaspoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square, which spread amazingly, and extending itself gradually till it reached the lee side, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking-glass.
    “After this, I contrived to take with me, whenever I went into the country, a little oil in the upper hollow joint of my bamboo cane, with which I might repeat the experiment as opportunity should offer; and I found it constantly to succeed.”
    It should be mentioned that Franklin did not identify the type of oil used in his experiments. Not all oils would have worked. It is now known that those oils that have a polar group in its molecular structure (for example, a carboxyl group, COOH) would spread on the surface of water, with the nonpolar part of the molecule sticking out of the water. Long chain aliphatic molecules spread this way, whereas polymers form films where the molecules lie flat on the water surface. In all likelihood Franklin used olive oil in his experiments. Tanford said, on page 76 of his book:
    “Note on the word ‘oil.’ In Franklin’s time the word ‘oil,’ without qualifying prefix, would have referred to oil used in the household, generally olive oil or sometimes fish oil or whale oil. Mineral oil (petroleum oil) had been known since antiquity, but saw little practical use until the nineteenth century. The distinction is important, because petroleum oil is pure hydrocarbon oil, and, …, would not have produced the effects that Franklin observed.”
    Franklin went on to say:
    “A gentleman from Rhode-island told me, it had been remarked that the harbour of Newport was ever smooth while any whaling vessels were in it; which probably arose from hence, that the blubber which they sometimes bring loose in the hold, or the leakage of their barrels, might afford some oil, to mix with that water, which from time to time they pump out to keep the vessel free, and that same oil might spread over the surface of the water in the harbour, and prevent the forming of any waves.”

  12. I think an oil rig being blown to pieces and leaking 5000 + litres a day is a disaster whatever the satellite images show.

  13. I don’t think alarmist reporting is new, especially when it comes to any topic involving politics or environment. I usually divide media estimates of something like this by 10.
    Those who take any news of this spill as gospel need to know that they will be either disappointed or relieved, depending on their own political or environmental bias, when the final report is written.
    I suppose my approach is a reflection of my own skepticism, but while it is sometimes wrong, it works more often than not.

  14. When people talk epic disasters, they should review the history of the 1979 Mexico’s Ixtoc #1 well that blew out in the Gulf, took nine months to control, and spilled an estimated 140 million gallons. The biggest single accidental oil spill ever.
    It is fascinating to watch the leftists and alarmists try and make the situation worse than it really is. And yes I live on the Gulf coast. We just had two officials of FL State wildlife say the problem is nowhere near as bad as the media is saying it is… They came on the local radio at the top of the last hour. They say most of the oil will evaporate.
    BTW, we have oil blobs float up on the coast all the time, mostly from ships. And yes it happens in the Keys just to the south of us as well. Not trying to minimize things, just add some sanity.
    We had massive unprecedented fish deaths, Manatee deaths and coral die-off this past winter, due to the cold.

  15. Cotwom:
    That was an excellent link and thanks for sharing it with us.
    The best method by far is by using thermal inertia. Subtract a thermal IR image taken two hours after sunset from a thermal IR image taken two hours prior. The difference in the images is a function of the thermal inertia of the surface. Different surfaces will loose or retain heat based upon their thermal properties. Oil slicks will stick out like a sore thumb using this method.

  16. This blogger suggests that the albedo of the slick is higher, which reduces local temperatures. That should indicate that hurricane strength would be weakened. My guess is a marginal weakening, though, on albedo alone.
    But, heat transfer from reduced evaporation may also work to reduce hurricane strength.
    Anthony, this is your forte. Any ideas?
    REPLY: It’s a slippery topic. – A

  17. Les Johnson:
    This is not so much temperature, but the change in emissivity of the sea surface as measured by satellite. But as was noted in the link which you provided, satellites did detect a small change in sea surface temperature.

  18. In the early days of Climate Audit there was a commenter who’s pet theory was that the cooling in the 40’s was due to all the oil spilled as a result of submarine war. Wonder if we will hear from him again.

  19. bill-tb
    Your “all-the-time” blobs are more than likely from natural seeps, not ships. Geologists estimate the Gulf natural petro seepage is at least a million gallons/year. The gulf ecosystem has evolved for eons with this all-natural, all-organic, mineral supplement. Regardless of the eco-wacko hype, seepage, even this heavy dose of “light, sweet crude,” is not a toxic contact poison.
    It will break down to nutrients for flora and fauna. Volitiles will evaporate. Heaver components will settle into sand and mud flats, stablizing them against wind and water driven erosion.
    Life is not all bad, unless you seriously look for it

  20. ” Charles says:
    May 20, 2010 at 10:46 am
    I think an oil rig being blown to pieces and leaking 5000 + litres a day is a disaster whatever the satellite images show.”
    Sigh. Units, units. You’re not the first one. 8 liters a second. 800000+ liters a day. 200000 gallons or so. 5000 barrels. 1 barrel = 156 liter. Please understand all numbers as order of magnitude only.
    liter != gallon != barrel != metric ton.
    And if you think 5000 liters of oil in an ocean is a catastrophe you must be one anxious guy.
    Try http://www.google.com and enter “1 barrel in liter” or “800000 liter in barrel”; it’ll help you.
    Also highly recommended for all journalists and NASA website hacks.

  21. Call me slow, but I do not think this post says much about the size of the spill. The spill sure seems to be supported by the photos to me.

  22. ” DirkH says:
    […]
    liter != gallon != barrel != metric ton.

    Sorry, for everybody who doesn’t use C/C++-style languages:
    liter not equal gallon not equal barrel not equal metric ton.

  23. I live on Tampa Bay, an outlet of the Gulf of Mexico, and have seen the effects of previous oil spills on our gorgeous beaches. I may be a CAGW skeptic and appalled by some environmental fanatics, but I do not want ANY offshore drilling ANYWHERE near Florida or other states. Believe me, when the oil finally does show up, it will a nightmare. You haven’t lived till you’ve walked through “tar balls” covered in sand, and the sight of countless innocent animals coated in oil is absolutely horrifying. Of course, one must have the ability to empathize with animals before one can appreciate how awful it is.
    There is no logical reason why the oil companies should not be drilling on dry land in the United States. From an environmental standpoint, it is WAY better for them to do so here than in primitive countries where there are no pollution controls, and in any event, this is one world, and pushing ones dirty industry to some other country doesn’t do anything for the globe. But, there is no excuse for drilling in our seas, no matter how much oil may be available. The potential damage is too great.
    I believe the USA should push for international laws to prevent China, Cuba, and any other country from drilling off our coastlines. If they want to drill in salt water, let them drill in their own.
    Of course, BP doesn’t have a fraction of money needed to cover the damages caused by its own incompetence, so the American people will be picking up the tab for clean-up, and private individuals and their insurers will get stuck with much of the rest. How many of these disasters will it take before the public says enough is enough?
    Thanks for the photos and for debunking the usual alarmists misconstruction and misapprehensions. That’s one thing. The reality, however, is still hideous.

  24. Has the web been scrubbed of the pictures of
    Ken Salazar cleaning a pelican coated in oil?
    I can’t find one!

  25. The Oil Polution Act of 1990 authorizes the President to either federalize the spill or oversee the cleanup efforts, and in this case the President delegated authority to the Coast Guard.
    Therefore, what we are looking at in the case of the Deep Horizons oil spill is the effectiveness of the Government’s response. Ben Lieberman asks, “How Have the Feds Done So Far?” and makes these three observations:

    1. “It is too early to grade the Coast Guard’s performance as well as that of the other agencies it is working with, but at least some evidence suggests that, as with Exxon Valdez, the initial response may have been indecisive. For example, since oil is flammable, burning it is one way to help turn a very serious water pollution issue into a far less serious air pollution issue.”
    2. “There are also indications that dispersants—chemicals that make the oil less environmentally harmful and easier to collect—were not used to full advantage at the sea floor. This reluctance may have been due to environmental concerns about its impact that, under the circumstances, were not warranted.”
    3. “…it was fully nine days into the accident before the Obama Administration solicited Department of Defense cooperation in deploying equipment needed to contend with the extreme depths of the spill site.”

    I just want to point out here that the larger the spill gets, the bigger the clean-up price tag grows.
    So the Feds, who are responsible for the clean-up, will collect larger and larger sums as the oil spill grows worse.
    Perhaps the problem is The Oil Polution Act of 1990!

  26. Anthony:
    With your update2 from Skytruth, we are in full agreement with the actual location of the oil spill.
    Thanks for that update and correction.

  27. The tragedy is the eleven people killed in the explosion. What I want to know is this: If oil in the water is dangerous, and more oil in the water is more dangerous, why does the EPA not let the Dutch “skimmer ships” operate and removes MOST of the spill oil? Yes, these ships don’t get all of it, but they get the vast majority of the spilled oil; surely it would be better for the environment (if that is you concern) to deal with say 10% of the spill as opposed to 100%/

  28. modis is a great resource–
    here the best link for anyone to get at modis-
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/?calendar
    This particular article misinterprets modis pictures.
    The first trick is to use this modis shot
    which everyone avoids-
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010128/crefl1_143.A2010128165000-2010128165500.2km.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010128/crefl1_143.A2010128165000-2010128165500.500m.jpg\
    this pic was from the 128 day of 2010 which is May 8–
    18 days post spill —
    it was taken early enough in the spill before the entire gulf became
    a mish mash of oil and dispersant and sheens.
    It clearly shows strands of oil and sheen reaching
    the yucatan and obliterating yucatan north east coastal waters
    especially, and also the east coast of the yucatan
    –turning them from a beautiful blue green to a sickly
    faded green with black streaks.
    The other trick is to compare the BEFORE satellite shots
    with the AFTER satellite shots from the gulf but also
    from the bahamas where the oil has yet to reach–
    blue green coastal water is one key ingredient–
    it existed extensively in the before shots everywhere
    but has disappeared from the latest gulf shots–
    but remains constant in the bahamas(the control baseline pictures),
    Also sheens, SUNGLINTS, and glares do not exist in the old
    pre spill satellite shots —
    so they cannot be caused by anything but oil and
    DISPERSANT-
    other origins are impossible.
    Pre spill pictures–
    beautiful blue green florida yucatan
    cuba and florida keys day 2 jan 2 2010
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010002/crefl1_143.A2010002163500-2010002164000.1km.jpg
    day 6 jan 6 2010
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?T100061610
    day 68 march 9
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?T100681625
    Post spill pictures–
    yucatan now totally black may day 139
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010139/crefl1_143.A2010139163000-2010139163500.500m.jpg
    Haiti port o prince may day 138
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010138/crefl1_143.A2010138155000-2010138155500.500m.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010130/crefl1_143.A2010130163500-2010130164000.1km.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010133/crefl1_143.A2010133153000-2010133153500.1km.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?T101321625
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010131/crefl1_143.A2010131154000-2010131154500.500m.jpg
    note that the bahamas has so far
    remained blue green and unaffected
    by the spill–
    why would everything else
    but the bahamas
    turn black grey brown?
    Big wells pump 50 thousand barrels a day or more–
    this is one of the biggest
    any technical person claiming that
    less than 50 thousand barrels is
    coming out here is deliberately lying.
    Stop denying that legitimate professional estimates
    have been made of
    200 thousand barrels a day and are being suppressed–
    19 times bp estimate-
    so their sippy straw
    catches only 3 percent
    of current production
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/19/1638091/gulf-oil-spill-may-be-19-times.html#ixzz0oQPTGoHa
    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/05/professor-of-mechanical-engineering.html
    scientists stomped-but bp massaged–
    http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1070447/pg1
    http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/gulf-oil-slick-triples-in-size-in-48-hours-bp-tries-to-infringe-on-volunteer-rights/
    http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/bp-refuses-help-from-conservation-experts/
    http://uruknet.de/?p=m66092
    http://www.prisonplanet.com/just-like-911-oil-spill-responders-are-getting-sick-but-are-being-told-they-dont-need-any-safety-gear.html
    http://www.care2.com/causes/tag/oil_spill/
    http://www.innworldreport.net/inn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2594:national&catid=35:domestic&Itemid=1

  29. @ Rhoda R
    See Zeke the Sneak’s post.
    The administration was extremely quick to assign blame and responsibility. Quick to act, not so much. Why? Perhaps it is easier to curse the darkness than to light a candle. Or, as Zeke suggested, perhaps it is a revenue seeking scheme. Somebody has to pay for my insurance!!!

  30. “Anton says:
    […]
    Of course, BP doesn’t have a fraction of money needed to cover the damages caused by its own incompetence, ”
    BP is valued at 115 billion euros or about 135 bn USD; the cleanup, damages etc. might cost 3 to 5 billion as estimated by analysts. If BP doesn’t have it in cash they can issue shares or loan the money.
    I said above it’s about 800000 liters a day, BP now says it’s slightly more so let’s make it 1 million liters a day – that’s 1000 metric tons or 25 40 ton trucks. Yes, 25 truckloads a day. It’s been going on for a month now and now nearly everything gets syphoned off so the amount won’t grow much, that makes a total of 30 * 25 = 750 truckloads oil spilled total.
    As a comparison: The Emma Maersk class container ships carry 11000 20 foot containers or about 5500 40 foot containers and you’d need 5500 trucks to transport that.
    Louisiana would have been much worse off had a big oil tanker spilled its guts.

  31. Mike Odin:
    A reason why only about 5000 barrels a day come out could be the fact that the BOP might have cinched the riser enough to reduce the flow; and that the oil has to make it through a crooked riser.

  32. yucatan now totally black
    Say what? I don’t think your links show what you think they show.

  33. Oil is naturally released into the oceans all the time from undersea wells. I don’t have any references right now, but I suspect a Google search would quickly turn some up.
    I suspect in geologic time, the gulf will clean this up quickly with no long-term harm done. Unfortunately, people depend so heavily on the gulf they’ll be severely impacted in the short term.
    MikeEE

  34. @Mike Odin
    Crap, its worse than we thought! Look, I don’t mean to make light of the situation, I think its horrible, but doom and gloom doesn’t seem to be helpful moving forward. While the media may play it up, I don’t think this will go down as one of the worst environmental accidents in the history of mankind. I live in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez occurred. You’d be amazed at the resilience of nature. With the proper techniques, and containment, this should be just a blip in the natural history of the gulf.
    Cheers

  35. While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.
    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)
    There are new estimates that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day: that’s a far cry from BP’s estimated 5,000 barrels a day. If BP’s estimates are correct, the total amount of oil now in the Gulf would be approximately 150,000 barrels (or 6,300,000 gallons). That’s barely enough to fill 286 swimming pools: sixteen feet, by thirty-two feet, by eight and a half feet deep. That wouldn’t cover an area the size of New York City, let alone an area the size of Delaware. Obviously, the spill is much larger than we are being led to believe. If the leak can’t be stopped, in a year’s time, we’ll have roughly 18,250,000 barrels of oil (or 766,500,000 gallons) in our oceans, killing our marine and animal wildlife. Such a calamity would be environmentally and economically disastrous. Pray that BP and our government work fast to end this catastrophe.
    http://www.calculateme.com/Volume/Barrels(Petroleum)/ToGallons.htm
    http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/05/17/latest-news-from-the-oil-spill-in-the-gulf-of-mexico-is-grim/
    http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/05/20/scientist-says-oil-spill-is-leaking-100000-barrels-of-oil-a-day-not-bps-estimate-of-5000/

  36. This is nothing to do with warming, at least not yet, not sure if surface oil will damp or or feed a hurricane – warmer water but less evaporation – a wash? Anyhow I don’t see any need to play it down. Tarballs are washing on up on shore all over the place, nobody wants to eat seafood from what were very productive fisheries, and it’s only going get worse until it’s capped. Eivdently just one of these is one too many no matter how many thousands of deep water wells never leaked. No amount of money can make this like it didn’t happen.

  37. The really scary thing is that with the current crop of people in power, it won’t be too much longer until we’re no longer able to enforce a 200 mile limit. When that time occurs, the Chinese, Russians, Libyans, Cubans, etc., will be able to drill right up to the 12 mile limit (if they deem to even recognize that). Of course, that’s a good thing. I have no problem with all that drilling by what will be the enterprising countries. The scary thing is that we won’t be in a position to enfore the 200 mile limit any more.

  38. @DirkH – Litres, Gallons, Barrels – whatever the volume the point clearly missed you. The fact that it happen is the point. It’s no surprise that C# is your preferred language

  39. Volume of the gulf: 2.4 x 10^6 cubic kilometers. I found that somewhere. Sweat the coastal marshes and the Mississippi, AL, and Panhandle beaches. But, the rest is mostly a lot of hype. As for the beaches, they were mostly ruined by developers thirty years ago. So, on second thought, just sweat the marshes.

  40. …my 750 truckloads of oil would fit into a cube of 34*34*34 meter or about 100 ft side length BTW if densely packed, i assume a density of 0.82 kg/l…
    The catastrophists here only want to push down the share price of BP i think… 😉

  41. $3-5 B in cleanup and damage my butt. Try 10x that number. This is going to make beaches nasty and fisheries unfishable for years. Like I’d believe BP about how many liters it’s leaking. Like asking a fox how many chickens it ate. They already admitted they have no way of getting an accurate measure. Big underwater plumes yet to surface were found by research vessels sampling the depths. I’m no big oil company conspiracy nut but there are clearly times when they’re going to want to play down the numbers as much as they can. This is one of those times. We won’t know actual damages until we see how much tourism and sea harvest incomes have declined for however long it takes them to recover to pre-spill inflation-adjusted level. Figuring out how to tally and fairly distribute damages among a million individuals, small and large companies, who are adversely impacted by this along the gulf coast will be an enormous undertaking all by itself. This isn’t the coast of Alaska. It’s the Gulf coast and that makes it way way different in magnitude of economic damage.

  42. MikeEE says:
    May 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm
    Oil is naturally released into the oceans all the time from undersea wells. I don’t have any references right now, but I suspect a Google search would quickly turn some up.

    Natural seeps in US waters: 1,119,000 barrels every year from natural cracks in the seafloor.
    Here are my policy suggestions:
    Congressional inquiry into Federal response, and what it allowed BP to do before it stepped in
    open ANWR where drilling will be safer
    🙂

  43. “Charles says:
    May 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm
    @DirkH – Litres, Gallons, Barrels – whatever the volume the point clearly missed you. The fact that it happen is the point. It’s no surprise that C# is your preferred language”
    Let’s just say i wouldn’t give you a leading position in a risk assessment operation. And BTW, C and C++ are not C# even though i use all of them.

  44. Dirk H –
    You do not seem too interested in examining the
    links I have provided which contradict your
    BP propaganda claims–
    200 thousand barrels a day is postulated by
    on the scene university experts
    (one of which
    you do not appear to be).
    Nor do you provide any links or evidence
    in support of your
    mistaken view point.
    Nor do you seem very interested in discussing
    modis pictures which is the topic of this post.
    If you need further
    assistance try (re)reading my above post.
    By the way here is a corrected link to
    modis 10 days ago which clearly
    shows the oil filaments and sheen attacking
    and degrading the yucatan shallows.
    No one dares discuss this picture-.
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010128/crefl1_143.A2010128165000-2010128165500.500m.jpg

  45. It is highly unlikely that this well is producing 50k to 80k bbls of oil per day.
    At the upper end, it would take only 170 wells to totally eliminate all foreign oil imports to the US. If this flow rate is accurate, then we will see a BOOM in deep water drilling.
    Its also of note that the largest producing well was just over 76,000 bbls/day. (Daugen field, North Sea). Some wells reputedly were larger, but these were all at the turn of the 19th century, when production was just flowed to the ground, then scooped up.
    There were also some issues with stock promoters. Spindletop, for instance, went from 5000 bbls/day, to 100,000.
    This well is also producing at over 2000 psi back pressure, 5000 ft down in the water. If it was doing 80k bbls/day to sea bottom, it would do closer to 150k bbls/day at atmospheric pressure.
    The estimates of the flow was based on particle velocity measurement. Unless the so-called expert knew the gas/water/oil ratios (and he doesn’t), and the pre and post choke pressures, its impossible to calculate flow rate.
    You cannot use particle velocity measurement in a 3 phase flow, with out knowing the ratio of each. Period.
    This well is producing less than 10,000 bbls a day. I have seen, up close and personal, 10,000 bbl/day blow outs in Iran. They were much more impressive.

  46. @mikeg
    There are limits to what congress and Obama can get away with. Giving up an inch of our 200 mile sovereign waters is one of those things they can’t change. Unlike other things where threat of armed revolt is just rhetoric that really will cause an armed uprising. The big problem is the military and all law enforcement agencies are largely, I might go so far as to say overwhemingly, staffed by patriotic Americans who would join a revolt to defend our borders rather than follow CinC orders to give them up.

  47. Mike Odin:
    Mike, i wasn’t to interested in your arguments from the moment you said that sunglint is caused by oil. I looked at some of the pics you linked. I think you mistake vegetation for oil slick. You want me to provide a link for my claims? Well, will the archgreen BBC do:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10134881.stm
    Did you think i’m pulling numbers out of the air? Why should i? I have sympathy for fishermen and hotel owners and everybody else in the area who suffer from the oil spill and i want them fully reimbursed by BP. As i stated, BP can pay that.
    I just computed some numbers to show that the volume of oil – if we can go by BP’s numbers – is not that gigantic.

  48. At 5000 barrels/day, it would take about 600 days to equal the 3 million barrels from the Ixtoc I platform event in 1979. (3.5 million by other accounts)
    Once it reaches full production, the Thunder Hawk platform in Mississippi Canyon Block 734 … deeper water but a similar formation, will pull up to 45,000 bbl/day. So, under comparable conditions, under forced extraction, the best that you can get is about that level. (also a semi-submersible rig)
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=78053
    Remember that the BP event is spewing of its own accord, not being forcibly extracted. At a full production rate of 45K barrels per day, you’re still looking at 66 days before you begin to catch up with the Ixtoc I platform’s spill in the Bay of Campeche 31 years ago.
    And here is a Google link to some of the travel, resort and fishing opportunities available there now.
    http://www.google.com/#hl=en&source=hp&q=resort+bay+of+campeche&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=ecd40f18f435c7f0
    And… in the October 2004 Scientific American, one statement from a sidebar is:
    “Biodegradable oil could be distributed across the sea surface in the path of a hurricane to limit evaporation—the source of a storm’s energy”
    And while there is much gnashing of teeth about oil.. remember, there are plenty of other countries that would be more than willing to charge you through the eye tooth for that gallon of gas. THEY put their money where it works to benefit them… specifically increasing capacity to sell to us.
    Saudi Aramco to Explore in Red Sea’s Deep Waters
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=88275
    PetroChina Plans $60B in Overseas Investments
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=93555
    In 1983.. I did some time putting around the Persian Gulf. A rig had been hit and the water looked nasty. Brown lumps of oil floating through the water. In 1991, 1996, and 1998… I could see no trace of the environments disasters that had befallen the area. Oh I’m sure you could find evidence of it… if you dug in the right spot on the beach, or took the right sample. But visibly I saw nothing to indicate what had happened. Oil seeps from the bed of the Gulf of Mexico all the time. The critters and creatures there have lived through it, just like they will live through this. Bad event? Yeah, but to me it’s worth the risk as long as I don’t have to pay some miscreant who is in turn financing people who would do us harm.
    One question I have yet to see asked anywhere… how many of these damage claims are just people trying to turn a buck since less people can afford to go to the resorts and the beaches since the economy tanked?
    Get over it, it’s an Oil spill. Quit the finger pointing, clean it up and get on with life.

  49. @jiminindy
    You think tarballs are natural occurences on beaches? I’ve spend a lot of time during my years on US Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf beaches. I’ve seen all kinds of weird crap on them but one notable exception I’ve never seen is a tar ball. Stop making crap up.

  50. @Odin
    Looked at the Modis links. I don’t see what you’re talking about. Why isn’t the news media on its way down to Mexico to get us film at 11:00? Also, flow in that direction would seem to be against the direction of loop current flow.

  51. Sometimes it is good to look something in different equivalent units:
    A heart pumps about 5 quarts per minute and converting to 42 gallon barrels (bbl) per day is 42.9 bbl/day per person, so the 5000 bbl/day leak is equivalent to what 117 peoples hearts pump per day, that’s more of something I can actually imagine. My mind initially guessed tens of thousands of people.
    Hmmm… that number now seems not so big in equivalent units. Now I see why the leak is actually but a sheen on the surface when compared to the area of the Gulf of Mexico.
    Of course, convert it to the flow in a hypodermic needle and it would be a humongous number, different units, different numbers.
    Still, it’s important of coarse to plug it as soon as possible, my prayers are with the men putting their lives on the line to perform that job.

  52. This spill is indeed a disaster which has been marked by bungling by all the actors involved, but a little perspective would seem to be in order. The oceans of the world have been dealing with oil for far longer than man has been utilizing it and at volumes in excess of whatever this spill is likely to generate, although with the current level of ineptitude being demonstrated that is not gauranteed.
    Here’s some links that provide a bit of perspective. The sat photo in the second link is from Feb 09 and is perhaps most relevant to this post
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=20863
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=36873
    http://www.mms.gov/omm/pacific/enviro/seeps2.htm

  53. Zeke the Sneak is right, we should be drilling in ANWR. Ten billion barrels minimum, and 5 miles inland where it couldn’t get into the ocean if there was a spill. And ANWR is a total Arctic wasteland, not good for much of anything.
    Companies have been forced into ever deeper waters by the government’s putting shallower tracts off limits to drilling. This disaster is every bit as much the fault of the government as BP.
    On the bright side, the massive amounts of oil under the deeper continental shelf show that, as always, peak oil is well into the future.

  54. I’d like to see all the spill downplayers here volunteer to regularly eat seafood from contaminated waters and have their kids go swimming every day on beaches where tarballs are washing up. Bet I’m as likely to see that as I am the north pole free of ice.
    This stuff about a million barrels of oil seeping out naturally every year sounds like a bigger WAG than any figures the climate alarmists put out and even if were true it sure isn’t from a point source in a huge stream that causes oil slicks on the surface. The same amount of raw crude seeping out slowly over millions of square kilometers isn’t comparable to a point source.

  55. Dave Springer says:
    May 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm
    @jiminindy
    You think tarballs are natural occurences on beaches? I’ve spend a lot of time during my years on US Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf beaches. I’ve seen all kinds of weird crap on them but one notable exception I’ve never seen is a tar ball. Stop making crap up.
    I grew up on Gulf beaches. I’ve seen tarballs all my life.
    See Dave’s post above for some much needed perspective. Funny, when it suits them to be worried about how much CO2 natural seeps are putting into the atmosphere, NASA scientists are perfectly willing to downplay the effects of the massive amount of oil that enters the gulf through those natural seeps.

  56. @MikeG
    I was a Marine Corps sergeant in my youth. Know lots of enlisted and high ranking officers. They are a force unto themselves. The president and congress are transitory and don’t really call the shots. They can’t even change it enough to allow gays to serve openly which is a far lesser thing than giving up territorial boundaries we’ve enforced for hundreds of years. Obama can’t even call a halt to wars the majority who elected him wanted ended. Some forces in our nation are more powerful and well entrenched than the 500 odd civilians in congress and the white house whose terms of office expire every two to six years. The latter’s command and control over them is marginal and illusory. Police, FBI, CIA, etc. are almost all ex-military and retain the mindset. There’s only so much you can ask them to do before they say no.

  57. The commentary accompanying the image I linked above indicates that the large grey area doesn’t represent the oil, but that the oil is in fact the small dark streaks in the grey field
    “The washed-out swath running through the scene is where the Sun is glinting off the ocean’s surface. If the ocean were as smooth as a mirror, a sequence of nearly perfect reflections of the Sun, each with a width between 6-9 kilometers, would appear in that line, along the track of the satellite’s orbit. Because the ocean is never perfectly smooth or calm, however, the Sun’s reflection gets blurred as the light is scattered in all directions by waves. The slicks become visible not because they change the color of the ocean, but because they dampen the surface waves. The smoothing of the waves can make the oil-covered parts of the sunglint area more or less reflective than surrounding waters, depending on the direction from which you view them.”

  58. Steve Huntwork says: (good stuff about oil on water: Franklin smoothed two acres of water with 5 ml of oil.)
    You are nearly there. Study the pictures of the leak, observe the behaviour of the clouds, think about what effect reduced wave action will have on the number of CCNs in the air over the oil sheen. Read up about the behaviour of oil-polluted CCNs and how they are more likely to combine and fall out. Every time I look at the pictures of the Gulf I feel like shouting ‘for heaven’s sake, get the monitoring aircraft up there and find out what the spill is doing to the clouds!’
    This is a golden opportunity to check the effect of polluting the ocean surface with oil and surfactant.
    Smoothed water produces fewer CCNs. Enough oil comes down the world’s sewers to smooth the oceans, all of them, every fortnight. Smooth ocean, fewer CCNs. Fewer CCns, lower cloud albedo, fewer clouds. Fewer clouds, more warming. It’s the Kriegesmarine Effect.
    JF
    Or not, of course. We don’t have the measurements.

  59. @Springer
    Please see Dave’s links from above (I’ve pasted here). NASA talks about the slicks in these pictures being natural. Note: These links show actual oil on the water from natural sources. I still haven’t seen any oil in the ones you were linking to.

  60. To all US BP employees:
    Many of you have asked about assertions made by various commentators on cable television news and comment programs. Here are some responses to the allegations:
    BP never had a clean-up plan
    The rig explosion occurred on April 20th, and our incident response team was immediately activated. This included the activation of our oil spill response plan (OSRP) that had previously been agreed with the US Government. Two USCG cutters, four helicopters and one rescue plane was deployed. Within a matter of hours we began subsea activation of the BOP.
    On April 21st, the administration began holding meetings and regular calls with BP leadership to discuss BP’s response effort, as well as federal oversight and support.
    On April 25th, we started work on a relief well and reached out to potentially impacted Gulf States. By this date, we and the Joint Incident Command had:
    More than 30 response vessels deployed;
    21,340 ft of boom deployed;
    500 personnel responding.
    We continued to build up our response effort, which currently includes:
    more than 20,000 people from government and industry;
    over 11,000 volunteers;
    over 900 vessels including 46 skimmer vessels;
    over 1.8 million ft of boom deployed with;
    57 aircraft, 18 fixed wing delivering 216 dispersant flights.
    The government has acknowledged our timely response. In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said:
    “I will say that British Petroleum leadership … were in Washington very quickly. They were immediately assuming responsibility…They were in the command centers and in the staging areas. They have been working in terms of cleanup and hiring, for example, local fisherman to deploy boom and the rest”
    Interior Secretary Salazar said this about the response plan:
    “… in terms of a worst-case — …[the plan] anticipated the resources available to cover a 250,000-barrel-per-day spill over a 30-day period, …. So in terms of spill response, there was and is a robust plan that is now being implemented.”
    BP doesn’t want to educate the public
    The Joint Incident Command (JIC) (BP, the US Coast Guard, Transocean and MMS), as called for in the response plan, has established a joint communications effort to be accessible to media, responsive to information requests and informative to the public.
    The JIC issues press releases daily, holds near-daily press conferences, posts all information on the incident website, uses Twitter and Facebook to disseminate information, and employs press officers through the Gulf region to respond to media inquiries;
    There have been more than 27 million hits on the UAC website;
    BP supplements that effort, with its own press releases, dedicated web pages, twitter feeds, videos, and Facebook page;
    We have community support teams in 21 counties across the region: 8 parishes in Louisiana, 8 counties in Florida, 3 counties in Mississippi, and 2 counties in Alabama;
    Tony Hayward, Doug Suttles or Bob Dudley has appeared on every major media network, and other BP representatives are available for television, radio and print interviews across the region daily.
    BP is not listening to ideas from outside the company on how to tackle the leak and the spill
    We have asked the best and brightest from across the industry to join us in this unprecedented challenge. There are over 90 companies working just in the Houston office
    Industry: Petrobras, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Anadarko, Marathon, Hess, ENI & others
    Service Providers: Oceaneering, Schlumberger, Cameron, Transocean, Wild Well Control, Boots & Coots, Cudd Well Control, Halliburton, GE
    Academia: LSU and U Texas faculty
    The Unified Command integrates BP, Transocean, US Coast Guard, Dept. of Interior, NOAA, EPA, DHS, MMS, DOD, US Fish & Wildlife, National Park Service, Dept. of State, USGS, CDC, and OSHA
    We are receiving huge numbers of offers of support and help from the public (over 63,000).
    Nobody from BP has voiced concern for the people and communities in Louisiana
    In Louisiana alone, we have 1,800 people working to minimize the impact of the spill and protect the shoreline. We’ve deployed 450,660 ft boom, 399,790 ft sorbent boom, 426 vessels, and 19 skimmers. Our people are reaching out to local communities to put in place a claims process that is quick and effective so families can make their house payments and put food on the table.
    Tony Hayward was in Louisiana on April 28, just days after the leak was discovered. He has been there more than 5 times since this incident began, speaking with those who are on the front lines of the response, meeting with the fishermen and others whose lives have been impacted, meeting with state and local officials to continuously improve our efforts to help affected individuals, and speaking to the people of Louisiana through television and radio interviews.
    We have processed $8.3 million claims so far, and are welcoming additional claims every day.
    BP has issued a block grant of $25 million to Louisiana along with an $15 million to reinvigorate tourism.
    US Employee Communications

  61. @Springer
    I know what you’re talking about. That kind of people made up the “greatest generation.” I like using that term even though the guy who popularized it was one of the three reasons I had to quit watching network news twenty years ago.
    I still can’t get over how Tom Karl and Hansen don’t believe the people from the greatest generation were capable of reading a thermometer twice a day without having to have NASA revise their readings 60 years later. If the blink comparisons between adjusted and un-adjusted historical temperatures don’t convince people of what a scam CAGW is, I don’t know what will. I guess a mile thick sheet of ice pushing skyscrapers over in Chicago might start to make a few of them start to question it. But, that’s still a few hunderd years off.

  62. Oops, that was Odin not Springer.
    @Springer
    I agree with you. That is the kind of people who made up “the greatest generation.” I typed a little about this but something happened and it appears to have been lost.
    I still can’t get over how Karl and Hansen don’t think dedicated professionals from that greatest generation were able to read a thermometer twice a day without having to have NASA revise their readings 60 years later.

  63. Dave Springer, May 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm
    Your veracity &/or observational skills are now in doubt. Almost the entire U.S. coast, from Chesapeake Bay to Coos Bay, is subject to natural tar ball spots and stains. N. C., the Tar Heel State, got it’s nickname well before offshore petro-development or shipping. On the West Coast, think of a few offshore La Brea Tar Pits oozing over the past 100,000 years.
    As to eating seafoods, perhaps your deep knowledge can inform us of precisely what components of bacterial-reduced petroleum are toxic to either fish or us.
    Scare and fear do not work. Define the problem.

  64. “Once it reaches full production, the Thunder Hawk platform in Mississippi Canyon Block 734 … deeper water but a similar formation, will pull up to 45,000 bbl/day. So, under comparable conditions, under forced extraction, the best that you can get is about that level. (also a semi-submersible rig) ”
    The Thunder Hawk platform will be producing from at least a dozen separate directional wellbores. The leak is from one test bore, partially choked by cement, tubing and damaged BOP rams.

  65. Assuming 25,000 barrels a day at 42 gallons per barrel for 30 days, we get 31,500,000 gallons of oil. There are 6.43 * 10^17 gallons of water in the Gulf, so that means the oil is 4.89 * 10^-10 per cent ( 0.00000000489 per cent) of the volume of the Gulf.

  66. It may be unfortunate that the wellbore is choked by debris.
    A well allowed to flow unchoked will often “bridge over”. The lack of back pressure causes the formation to collapse upon itself, naturally plugging the perforations.
    That may be why we have never witnessed any massive natural seeps. Natural seeps are many, but individual seeps are low volume events, choked by irregularities in the fault through which they escape. Perhaps natural seeps are less likely today since we have depleted most of the shallow deposits from which natural seeps feed. If so, we should thank the petroleum industry for doing its part in removing this harmful natural pollutant from the environment and disposing of it in a benefical manner.
    Regardless, the relief well will inject a mud “clot” into the formation near the perforations and the well will be brought under control in a short time, geologically speaking.

  67. Dave Springer says:
    May 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm
    I’d like to see all the spill downplayers here volunteer to regularly eat seafood from contaminated waters and have their kids go swimming every day on beaches where tarballs are washing up. Bet I’m as likely to see that as I am the north pole free of ice.
    This stuff about a million barrels of oil seeping out naturally every year sounds like a bigger WAG than any figures the climate alarmists put out and even if were true it sure isn’t from a point source in a huge stream that causes oil slicks on the surface. The same amount of raw crude seeping out slowly over millions of square kilometers isn’t comparable to a point source.
    That’s how I grew up! U-boat torpedo’s “spilled” nearly 175 million gallons of crude and refined product in 1942 along the mid-Atlantic coast. We always had jars of gasolene to wash the tar off our feet in the 50’s. Everybody ate the sea food. Its interesting that the great fear in 1942 was not the damage to the beaches but the threat of freezing as a result of the heating oil shortages– it why the US built the land based pipeline system.
    I don’t know how you could have possibly spent time on the Pacific shores without seeing tar balls. In fact drilling has significantly reduced the large natural tar deposits that washed up on So Cal beaches. Think of the La Brea Tar pits- they were not a spill. The tar balls from So Cal are so prolific they keep washing up in Prince William Sound and get blamed on the Valdez http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es00010a033
    Some photos of California tar balls that stayed home http://geology.about.com/od/petroleum/ig/mckittrickseep/
    You should also be aware that the tar balls are not tar but asphaltene– the same stuff we use build our roadways . The most toxic fraction of crude oil is the volatiles which escapes to the atmosphere within a day or so. This is about 30 to 40% of the oil volume. It is broken down in the air by photochemical processes. The bacteria, fungi etc chew part of the remaining fraction with the harder to eat stuff ending up as a tar ball. We should be happy that asphaltene is harder to eat or our highways would rot.
    You’ll hear a lot of scare stories about poly aromatic hydrocarbons from tar balls but you will also find them from normal street and driveway runoff (as well as cooking residue, mothball etc)
    There is an entire reef system that has developed around the asphalt domes off the California coast. http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=73106&ct=162 “It was an amazing experience, driving along…and all of a sudden, this mountain is staring you in the face,” said Christopher M. Reddy, director of WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute and one of the study’s senior authors, as he described the discovery of the domes using the deep submersible vehicle Alvin. Moreover, the dome was teeming with undersea life. “It was essentially an oasis,” he said, “almost like an artificial reef.” Seems the fish like really big tar balls
    If you want to get some good info on the spill and its impacts read the National Academies of Science report Oil in the Sea III. In this report you will see that 60% of all the oil entering No American waters each year are from natural oil seeps or about 47 million gallons a year. About 5000 gallons a day leaks comes from one small seep off Santa Barbara CA.

  68. Mike Davis says:
    May 20, 2010 at 10:37 am
    “If this had not been man made the same would have happened any way from natural causes! Yes the greatest environmental damage will be from the people trying to stop environmental damage as the cure in this case will be worse than the ill!”
    Thanks you for a voice of reason Mike. Lots of people do not realise that an estimated 46% of oil in the oceans/seas is from natural seepage! Thats a vast amount that nature seems to take care of.
    Still, It is sad that this accident has taken so many lives and BP are reported as using local people without protective equipment, to clear up the mess seems like another problem that will be addressed by the only people to benefit from this……….Lawyers!

  69. I’d like to see all the spill downplayers here volunteer to regularly eat seafood from contaminated waters and have their kids go swimming every day on beaches where tarballs are washing up.
    Been there, done that. I used to swim in the ocean, south off the LI beaches. The daily after-swim routine was to rinse your feet, go into Grandma’s room to get the lighter fluid and clean the inevitable (large) tar balls off both your feet.
    We used to eat fish out of the bay to the north all the time (and swim in it). It was quite polluted by today’s standards.
    We were all much healthier and fitter for it.

  70. Steve Huntwork says: (May 20, 2010 at 10:41 am) Observations of Benjamin Franklin

    Thanks, Steve! Fascinating and absorbing.

  71. L Nettles says:
    quote In the early days of Climate Audit there was a commenter who’s pet theory was that the cooling in the 40′s was due to all the oil spilled as a result of submarine war. Wonder if we will hear from him again. unquote
    Whoever he was he got it 100% wrong: if you look at the Hadcrut graphs before the Folland and Parker bucket ‘correction’ is applied (see CA for the story and validity of the correction) then the warming from 39 to 45 is very plain.
    Tom Wigley was puzzled by this WWII warming — Google the UEA emails for Wigley and blip to see his comment.
    Is the cloud cover over the sheened areas behaving normally? What’s happening to the albedo?
    JF
    Oh, yes, re natural seeps. I’ve heard that there is a superstition in the industry that areas with lots of prawns are good to drill.

  72. Re: Dave Worley – May 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm
    “The Thunder Hawk platform will be producing from at least a dozen separate directional wellbores. The leak is from one test bore, partially choked by cement, tubing and damaged BOP rams.”
    I stand corrected.
    In reality , I had known about the numerous feeds when I read about it about a year or so ago. Your pointing out that it is actually a multiple feed system sort of highlights the point I was trying to make. Thanks.
    For the “why don’t you eat the seafood” comment from earlier. I do when I can. I live in Florida. Spanish and King Mackerel are some of the best eats around. You can keep your Redfish. Since they are a wide ranging fish, their population might be affected though.

  73. brodie says:
    May 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm
    To all US BP employees:
    Interesting. But the public isn’t receptive to any stinkin’ facts right now. I think BP’s biggest error to date was Hayward’s comment reported earlier today that suggested the impacts wouldn’t be as horrendous as the media was suggesting. Not that that was not true (I hope). It just wasn’t the best thing to say PR wise right now. Perception counts more than reality, particularly when the media has the public whipped up into a frenzy and the Obamites are trying to blame BP for everything possible right now – so the public doesn’t look any closer at them while they attempt to use this for political advantage.
    Hayward should have played along with the panic for the time being. That would have avoided a lot of flak plus anything less than an oily apocalypse will look even better.
    The truth, or something closer, can come out later, after the mob mentality calms down.
    In the meantime, I sure hope that the shoreline damage is as minimal as possible.

  74. The spill is of course a disaster for everybody concerned, was avoidable and wouldn’t have happened in European waters. Don’t forget though that BP aren’t drilling for oil in deep water for fun, it is to satisfy our insatiable demand for energy and I include in “we” the very greenest. The point of this article, I believe, isn’t downplaying the seriousness of the spill but to counter the resultant alarmist howling.

  75. Near where I live is the largest oil spill in the world. It is estimated at around 2 TRILLION barrels. It’s all soaked into the ground, and both flora and fauna don’t grow properly in that area. If you fly over, you can CLEARLY see the oil sheens in lakes and rivers.
    We are doing our level best to clean up this massive spill. Every day, hundreds of huge loaders pile the contaminated soil and sand into trucks, and it gets a steam bath to liberate the petroleum. Cleaned sand and soil is returned and the completed areas are a boon to local wildlife. It’s a huge job that will likely take over a century to complete. Luckily, the extracted petroleum can be sold to offset the cost of cleanup.
    Unfortunately, the same people who are wetting their panties about the spill in the Gulf are doing their best to stop us from cleaning up this mess. For some strange reason, they feel that we have to live with this massive spill in the middle of our region, stinking it up, polluting groundwater, rivers and streams, and stunting forest growth.
    Please, write your elected representatives and ask, no Demand, if necessary, BEG them to support our cleanup efforts at Athabasca. Don’t just do it for Alberta, do it for the CHILDREN. Your children. So they too can know the joy of filling a car with pure, clean, natural Gasoline, while simultaneously providing plant fertilizer for our crops.

  76. CodeTech: May 21, 2010 at 12:24 am
    We are doing our level best to clean up this massive spill.
    Quick — mobilize PETA! Save the threatened Albertan kitties!

  77. Reality check time. Like all events there are consequences. Yes this spill will cause problems and yes we will fix them. The reality is that 30% of the United States Oil comes from this ares and another 20% comes from Canada. (oil sands) Both these areas are detested by the anti oil crowd. Mind you after this they may choose to protest in the Warm Southern U.S. instead of Mosquito infested marshes of Northern Alberta. Back to the reality if we shut down both these places then you remove 50% of the oil from the U.S. economy.
    This is why the U.S. Government is so quiet about all this. They may be wannabe Euro crates but they are not stupid. This event has shown them for who they are and they are scared to death. They know that thy can not shut off the oil or the economy will collapse like Spain.
    So they will stop the leak clean up and continue on because if they do not then the economy will tank especially in the area where this event is happing.
    The proof is in the pudding. If green energy really worked this would be the perfect time to push it. Since green energy does not work, – if it did we would be using it – they are standing naked in the room with no where to hide.
    No body likes this just like nobody likes Volcano or tsunami but we will survive clean up and move on.

  78. We always had jars of gasolene to wash the tar off our feet in the 50′s.

    Lovely. A day at the beach followed by scrubbing tar off yourself with gasoline. Who wouldn’t mind that?
    The larger point made accidentally is that a decade after the u-boat sinkings ended the tar was still washing up on the beaches enough that it was routine to need to scrub it off yourself with a highly volatile solvent after a day at the beach.
    At least one group stands to benefit – an army of lawyers on both sides in class action litigation. I was sympathetic with the tobacco industry as smokers had to be illiterate morons to be unaware of the risk they were voluntarily undertaking every time they lit up. I’m not at all inclined to feel sorry for BP.

  79. Here’s something that might effect the AGW scene. It appears the Obama administration may be trying to cover up the extent of the spill in cahoots with BP. The scientific community is starting to raise hell about it. When the New York Times and the Huffington Post turn against Obama his source of political capital has run dry.
    Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill
    Maybe some good will come of this. It might end the one-sided love affair between the Obama adminstration and the scientific community. They see him as a heroic supporter and he sees them as useful idiots. A wake-up call might be in the offing.

  80. As long as we’re on the subject of energy supply… I agree that we are married to offshore drilling for the nonce. That doesn’t mean it can’t be made safer against a repeat of this unfolding disaster.
    In any case there’s a limited supply of economically recoverable oil. Most people don’t realize what “economically recoverable” means. As the easy-to-access light sweet crude is used up (already well beyond peak production of it) we have to go after stuff that’s more costly to recover and/or most costly to refine. There comes a point where it takes more energy to recover and refine the oil than the energy you get from the end product. Recovery stops sometime before that point.
    As another commenter pointed out, green energy isn’t viable. At least not from solar collectors, windmills, and stuff like that. Marginal sources at best. Nuclear fission power plants, while probably economically viable, are politically dead due to the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) syndrome, proliferation issues, and whatnot. Fusion power seems as far away from practicality as ever. If we could get a space elevator operational, a bit of hope there if current pace of improvement in carbon nanotube cable continues like it has been, we could boost enough mass into orbit cheaply enough to make solar power sats beaming electricity down as microwaves to decentralized rectenna farms viable. Still a trillion dollar capital outlay but it would provide all the cheap energy needed for the foreseeable future and pay for itself in very short order. It would still take decades to build out though.
    What I’m really hoping comes about pretty quickly was just in the news recently – Craig Venter’s continuing success with artificial life. If we can get to the point where we can program bacteria to do things they’re already capable of by mixing and matching genes from different species and directing them like armies of automatons doing our bidding then the energy problem, and a host of other problems, is solved in short order. I believe we’re quickly approaching the point where design of custom bacteria on an engineering workstation is a reality.
    Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA
    I’ve been closely following this since 1987 after reading the seminal work in nanotechnology hot off the press Engines of Creation by K. Eric Drexler. Progress has been unfolding more or less precisely as he outlined 23 years ago well within the estimated time frames. The most important milestone, that of putting a harness on the nanometer scale factories (bacteria) that have been waiting around on a silver platter ready for exploitation for billions of years, seems to be getting pretty close now. Venter is leading the way more than anyone else IMO from constructing a viable bacterial genome from mail-order DNA snippets to circumnavigating the globe creating a gene library from shotgun sequencing of microrganisms sampled in the ocean depths. For any engineers here, once you understand the possibilities of being able to create self-replicating nanometer scale factories to do your bidding, there’s nothing comparable in history to the opportunities it opens up. Fire, agriculture, metallurgy, and electronics pale in comparison – mere stepping stones to the signal technology.

  81. “of course you must have the ability to empathize with animals”
    Yeah, liberals are good at empathizing with animals, not so good at empathizing with humans though.

  82. Release the Tesla technology! We need to demand from the government the release of Teslas free energy technology. We have been kept on petrolium based energy for decades when it’s obsolete. We could have been off all oil many years ago if the government and big oil didn’t supress Teslas discovery.
    We must all scream togethter. RELEASE THE TESLA TECHNOLOGY!

  83. When is the last time you heard a liberal say there are too many people?
    When is the last time you heard a liberal say there are too many animals? Unless, of course, those animals are used primarily to feed people.

  84. Dave Springer says:
    May 21, 2010 at 7:46 am
    Lovely. A day at the beach followed by scrubbing tar off yourself with gasoline. Who wouldn’t mind that?
    The reason the tar continued for a decade or more is the oil continued to be released from the holds of the sunken ships. Very different from this spill. No we were not happy about the tar – in fact we didn’t think much about it at all. Given a choice between swimming and tar we chose swimming. Tar balls are a fact of life in So Cal and the Gulf with or without drilling. You asked a question about whether or not people would swim in the water and eat the sea food and you have received two yes answers. You really need to dig a little deeper into how commonplace asphaltene is in our everyday environment. As an aside the Indians of southern Texas used to chew tar balls.
    A 50 year health study on 22,000 crude oil workers (the people covered daily head to toe in oil) found their health histories were as good or better than the general population.http://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2001/04000/An_Updated_Mortality_Study_of_Workers_at_a.17.aspx
    Don’t take these comments as being uncaring or unconcerned. My concern with this spill is that the media induced hysteria is going to cause political feel good responses that will do more damage than the oil. (Aggressive marsh cleanup can more than double the recovery time compared to allowing nature to take its course). And the media hysteria has and continues to hurt the tourist related businesses on the Gulf.
    Read the Nat. Acad report. The greatest environmental damage is done by catastrophic nearshore releases of oil from a super tanker. The lowest long term threat is drilling near refineries such as the Gulf. The fact that few people remember the Ixtoc blowout in 1979 in the Gulf (bigger than this one and 9 months in duration) but remember the Vadez makes my point. Remember 30 to 40% of the oil is volatile and in offshore wells it does not not make it to the coast before evaporation.
    My concern is that the media sells oil as the greatest threat to the Gulf ecosystem. A spill’s impact in the Gulf runs from several months to maybe 3 years. Plenty of papers to show this. However the impacts of shrimping, wetland loss and the disruption of the sediment budget are far more serious and long lasting to the health of the Gulf. If you really want to be outraged at environmental damage read up on the near shore impacts of the shrimp fishery subsidized with your tax dollars.

  85. Rather surprised that nobody noticed, so here’s my 2 cents. Look in the top right of the Florida photo and check the color of the Atlantic, by the East coast – exactly that of the supposed “oil slick” in the Gulf. Which seems to indicate that it’s something else.

  86. I, for one, am pleased that the photos were shown to be misinterpreted. It decreases one of my asserted “vectors” quite considerably (http://glaciergruff.com/HOUSTON-Final.htm“). I am grateful to Anthony Watts for his effort to clarify the matter. I am going to modify my essay now to indicate Anthony’s clarification, but I am still asserting that the vector is immense as far as a strange attractor of some kind in a region where so many atmospheric and oceanic flows come into play.

  87. Kind of makes me feel guilty for commuting 50 miles each way to work in a 3/4 ton Chevy truck. But, the ride is so nice and I like looking down on all the people in their more fuel efficient miniature vehicles. I almost bought a Prius, I felt so guilty. But, La Hood started bashing Toyota relentlessly. Every day, the US government was ratcheting up the Toyota bashing until I couldn’t take it. I went to a Government Motors dealership to complain. They had these giant pickups sitting all over the lot. To help move them, the salesman, a Mr. Obama, was offering large rebates on top of already being priced to move. So, instead of speaking my mind, I bought one. Best move I ever made. The ride is awesome. I enjoyed it so much, I sold my house (at a nice profit) and moved farther away from work. Carpool? No way. I enjoy my two hours a day of commute time in this beast. It’s my me time.

  88. Perhaps not applicable in this case, but I wonder if it might be practicable to plug gushing open vertical well-head by driving or dropping a long tapered lead spike down the shaft? I assume that the length of the spike would be sufficient to provide enough counter-force to keep it from being expelled by the pressure from below and the maximum diameter would be designed to assure a tight friction-fit. This would require a smooth open shaft with no solid obstructions.

  89. The Destructionist says:
    May 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.
    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)

    The well will be capped or cutoff by an intercepting drilling below the blow out.
    There is no plume of oil drifting underwater.
    I doubted that story the moment I heard it. Remember, oil floats on water.
    This story is based on some premature conclusions from scientists on the R/V Pelican, a research vessel engaged in other pursuits when the oil spill began.
    From http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doc/2931/552671/

    “Media reports related to the research work conducted aboard the R/V Pelican included information that was misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate. Yesterday the independent scientists clarified three important points:
    1. No definitive conclusions have been reached by this research team about the composition of the undersea layers they discovered. Characterization of these layers will require analysis of samples and calibration of key instruments. The hypothesis that the layers consist of oil remains to be verified.
    2. While oxygen levels detected in the layers were somewhat below normal, they are not low enough to be a source of concern at this time.
    3. Although their initial interest in searching for subsurface oil was motivated by consideration of subsurface use of dispersants, there is no information to connect use of dispersants to the subsurface layers they discovered.
    NOAA thanks the Pelican scientists and crew for repurposing their previously scheduled mission to gather information about possible impacts of the BP oil spill. We eagerly await results from their analyses and share with them the goal of disseminating accurate information.
    NOAA continues to work closely with EPA and the federal response team to monitor the presence of oil and the use of surface and sub-surface dispersants. As we have emphasized, dispersants are not a silver bullet. They are used to move us towards the lesser of two environmental outcomes. Until the flow of oil is stemmed, we must take every responsible action to reduce the impact of the oil.”
    For information about the response effort, visit http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.

    I sent an email to one of those scientists. Based on what she has published, it appears she is very well qualified to comment on the long term effects of this oil spill. I asked her to direct me to any published studies resulting from the findings of the Pelican.
    I suspect this whole thing will turn out like previous ‘disasters’ reported on by the media regarding oil spills.
    Contrary to popular belief, which is based on biased, distorted, and incomplete reporting, the oceans eat oil.
    You’ll see how I came to this conclusion when you read this:
    http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00454

    In July 1979 The Washington Post dispatched me to the island of Tobago off Trinidad to cover the first collision of fully-loaded supertankers. The two ships in question, each more than 1,000 feet long, were loaded with a total of 3.5 million barrels of crude oil – enough to supply 20 per cent of the daily consumption of the entire U.S. at that time.
    I knew something about oil. I had grown up in Louisiana around wells and derricks. As a reporter I had written about refineries, ridden tankers and helicoptered to offshore rigs. I figured the oil spill off Tobago would be the environmental disaster of all time. But guess what happened to that environmental disaster?
    It never happened.
    The calamity was bad enough. One ship exploded and sank, 27 people died and there WAS an enormous oil spill. But it never hit any beaches, never appeared to oil any birds, and ultimately simply disappeared. Most of it evaporated; the rest was consumed by oil-eating microbes in the sea. As near as anyone can tell, there was virtually no environmental damage.

    Now I don’t anyone to think I think there is no problem down in the Gulf of Mexico. This is very serious and tragic. The deaths of 11 people on the platform made it so, let alone the impact on the economy down there.
    But it is not an Apocalypse.
    Some other observations:
    Most of the economic damage to the tourist industry has been inflicted by the irresponsible reporting from the media. This incident illustrates the power of the media on people. They just assume the beaches are ruined. Not so.
    A lot of the gulf was supposed to already have been rendered a ‘dead zone’ by our agricultural activities. See http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/
    If BP is responsible for all of its ecological damage, why aren’t the farmers of Iowa, Nebraska, and so forth responsible for the ‘dead zone’?

  90. No matter how over-blown this issue may be in the press, I believe we really should have a reliable and sure method for quickly plugging and stopping all flow from a damaged deep undersea bore-hole. Preferably, I think, this would be in the form of a pre-made solid plug that could remain in place indefinitely without corroding or disintegrating.

  91. Mark W says:
    May 20, 2010 at 10:16 am
    “Looks as though the most significant ecological damage from this spill will be the result of the throngs of media trampling the delicate grasses along the barrier islands in the Gulf.”
    Wrong! The media is not really being allowed in. They are picking and choosing. CBS got ran of a beach under the threat of arrest by the National Guard and BP.

  92. Satellites are being used to determine the size and damage of this oil spill, however, I have recently heard that these satellites will be used to reflect light from the sun onto these oil slicks to then heat the ocean, increasing average ocean temperatures to counteract the up-coming ice-age and to increase the fake idea of “global warming” so these power elite can put into policy carbon taxes and energy taxes.
    Now, we all know “global warming” is a scam because “climate-gate” has shown us that average temperatures around the world are decreasing, and yes, that we are heading into an ice-age. It is also proven that ice caps and glaciers are growing on average not shrinking.
    So, I’m curious to know if anyone else has heard anything about the government/power elite using these satellites to reflect sun-light onto these oil slicks which will then heat the ocean.

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