Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Giant Underwater Plume Confirmed—Gulf Oil Not Degrading - National Geographic

photo credit Cameron McIntyre/WHOI

I'm beginning to feel the "Isn't this over?" sentiment. Not just because I want to stop thinking about it - because I actually want it all to be OVER. I want all the little fishies to be happy. Unfortunately, it'll be a long time from now...

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered a 22-mile-long, 650-foot-high pocket of oil that's been hanging out at 3,600ft for months.

"The oil plume's stability is "a little unexpected," study leader Richard Camilli, of WHOI's Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, said at a Thursday press briefing in Washington, D.C.
"We don't have any clear indication as to why it set up at that depth.""

The oil-eating microbes everyone thought would be gobbling it up haven't been working as hard as we would all like.

"Counting on microbes to quickly clean up an oil spill is "like asking a teenager to do a chore. You tell them to do it on a Friday, to do it when it's most advantageous, and they do it on a Saturday,"" says Christopher Reddy, marine chemist at WHOI.

The oil remains.

Now for more bad news: It's on the move.

"The plume has already fanned out a considerable distance from the BP wellhead, [Ruoying] He, [physical oceanographer at North Carolina State University] noted. At the time of the survey, the plume was migrating about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) a day southwest from the spill site, according to the study."

With all the trouble that's been focused on protecting our beaches in the aftermath of the spill, little has been devoted to protecting the deep sea and the ocean as a whole.

Says Robert Carney, biological oceanographer at Louisiana State University: "We are badly in need of new ideas."

Full article here (National Geographic)

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