Official NOAA image, using data acquired on Aug. 7, depicts the current location of the Loop Current, and counter-clockwise cold water eddy current. Graphic courtesy NOAA.
Thousands of marine animals still in danger from hidden oil in Gulf September 21, 2010 (physorg.com)
Scientists affiliated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a residue of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Learn more in the Sept. 2010 issue of NSF Current.
"The gas concentrations are outrageously high. We have measured concentrations up to 100,000 times what we typically see in the Gulf of Mexico," says Joye.
"There is a whole slew of organisms that depend on these natural seeps, and in these ecosystems, the one thing that these organisms need that can be taken away by this oil spill is oxygen," explains Joye. "That's because they eat oil and gas but the bacteria that sustain them are oxygen-requiring bacteria. So without oxygen, they can't survive."
"It took two months to nail down the magnitude of this spill. I'm still not convinced that it's an accurate number; 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil per day, that doesn't even include gas flux. The gas flux is probably another 30 percent on top of that," she says.
"In my congressional testimony, one of the biggest things I hammered again and again was the need to document the size of this spill," she says. "You can't even begin to fathom the environmental implications if you don't know how much gas and oil have come out of this wellhead."
Since this NSF cruise, the Deepwater Horizon well has been capped. But Joye wants to make sure the public knows that just because the oil is no longer gushing out, the problems are far from over. She is especially concerned about the dispersants used to break up the oil and gas, to try to keep it from reaching shore.
The dispersant has not been widely tested on marine organisms, according to Joye. And it makes locating plumes of oil and gas much more difficult, even impossible, with satellite imagery.
"The volume, the sheer magnitude of dispersant application is mind-boggling. The fact is that we have no idea what this could do to the system. The dispersant is a complex chemical milieu of who knows what," explains Joye. "It [the use of dispersants] does one thing really well. It masks the magnitude of the spill, and it potentially does many, many things badly."
Lead scientists talks about thick oil on Gulf floor September 16, 2010 (Fox8 TV Louisiana)
The Woodshole Oceanographic Institution's Research Vessel Oceanus took a team of scientists out to sea August 21st, anxious to explore how the largest oil spill in U-S history is affecting the Gulf of Mexico. Lead scientist Dr Joe Montoya says, "We were looking at all the processes and trying to understand what is going on all the way from the surface of the ocean, all the way to the bottom in the northern Gulf of Mexico."
Dr Montoya from Georgia's Institute of Technology was joined by colleagues from the University of Georgia, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss. They spent most of their time within ten nautical miles of the well head and made two primary discoveries. Dr Montoya explains, "We were finding substantial quantities of what is recently deposited oil and degraded oil on the sea floor over a broad expanse of the north and northeastern Gulf." He goes on to say, "We also found -- and I have to be careful how I describe them -- but coherent features layers of water that had characteristics that appear consistent with the the current or past presence of oil in the water."
Interactive Social Media Map
On April 20, 2010, Transocean Ltd. reported an explosion and subsequent fire on board the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, leased and operated by BP. The incident resulted in a massive oil spill that lasted until July 15, 2010.
This application allows you to add points with links to online photos, Web sites, and YouTube videos. Please feel free to add current information to the map and increase everyone's awareness of activities related to this tragic event.
The Poisoning July 21, 2010 (Rolling Stone)
It's the biggest environmental disaster in American history - and BP is making it worse
The real story of dispersant in the Gulf and its magic trick of horrors September-October, 2010 (Audubon Magazine)
According to a group of scientists in Berkeley, Calif., an oil-eating bacteria had "consumed a huge deep-sea plume of dispersed oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April." The article stated that the chief microbiologist (Terry Hazen) believed "the plume that was once 22 miles long and 3,600 feet deep is now 'undetectable'."
Interestingly, the same word used by a chief surgeon in describing my mother's cancer. Three months later, she was dead.
The last paragraph of this article was laughable. "The group's work is supported by part of the $200 million grant that BP gave to an environmental research project run by the University of California, Hazen's team, the Berkeley lab and the University of Illinois."
Special Report: The BP Gulf Oil Disaster September-October, 2010 (Audubon Magazine)
At this writing, we don't even know the problem's dimensions. Millions and millions of gallons of crude remain in the waters, and dispersants have irretrievably dissolved oil into the sea, where it can't evaporate or weather as it would in the heat and sunlight of the surface. Nor can it be seen or quantified.
The Legacy of the Gulf Spill:
What to Expect for the Future? August 9, 2010 (Environment 360)
Though there are some crucial differences, Ixtoc I is the closest historical analog to the Deepwater Horizon spill. Both took place in the Gulf of Mexico in similar climates and ecological circumstances. Both were seemingly uncontrollable for a time and poured huge amounts of oil into Gulf waters. Both hit nearby coastal and underwater environments hard. As for the aftermath, history offers encouragement: The post-Ixtoc recovery was robust, indicating that the Deepwater Horizon spill's impacts, though harsh in the short term, will dissipate over time.
Circumstance has played a role in limiting the damage: The outflow from the Mississippi has kept some oil away from the shoreline, and an unexpected eddy in the Gulf's loop current kept it from being carried much further east or south.
The biggest unknown, scientists say, is the oil that remains out in the open sea, mostly underwater, where it might remain for a long time. Oil spewing from the well and on the surface was treated with nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants, which created droplets of differing densities that now float throughout the water column, some in plumes, some in lower concentrations. "By dispersing, you end up spreading it out over a much wider area" said Doug Rader, the chief ocean scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. "It's like a volcano's cone of ash, but moving more slowly. Some rises, then rains back toward the bottom."
No one is quite sure what kind of damage this mixture of dispersant, oil, and its constituent chemicals can do to marine organisms. The deeper down these droplets are, the less likely they are to be metabolized or otherwise degrade, and the more mischief they may cause, especially if a storm churns them up and sends them someplace new. The toxicity of the dispersant BP has used, Corexit 9500, is hotly debated. Kendall says he believes the use of dispersants facilitated the release of toxic oil components - including benzene, a carcinogen, and toluene, which can cause neurological damage - that remain in the water.
The Case of the Missing Plumes
Plumes of oil mixed with dispersants are moving through the Gulf of Mexico, but nobody seems to know where they are.
The Loop Current flows from the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, often far to the north, even as far as the site of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, then south and east between the Florida Keys and Cuba, then northward along the coast alongside and into Biscayne Bay, where the Seaquarium pumps water for all its tanks. In early July the Loop was pinched off by a circular eddy in the middle of the Gulf, while the remaining current leveled off several hundred miles south of the well.
NOAA sent some ships out to find the plumes in early June, but... according to NOAA: "The offshore forecast was temporarily stopped on June 20, 2010 due to the small amount of oil offshore, the absence of recent observations confirming significant amounts of oil in offshore areas, and the large distance between the loop current complex and the Deepwater Horizon oil slick. Offshore forecasts will resume if the threat returns."
It seems that only The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Oceana and Mote Marine Labs have launched an undersea robot to find the toxic plumes, but so far no findings have been published.
On May 28, The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that there was a "61%-80% chance" that the BP oil spill will reach the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami by mid-August. All 8 large tanks at the Seaquarium recieve seawater pumped directly from Biscayne Bay, adjacent to the currents that are expected to carry the oil.
The millions of gallons of dispersants sprayed to hide the oil increase the toxic effects, according to toxicologists. The Seaquarium is required to have an evacuation plan on file with the USDA, but no plan has been located and so far the Seaquarium hasn't explained how the animals will be protected.
As of July 25, the surface oil is concentrated along the northern Gulf coast, according to the Florida Geospatial Assessment Tool for Operations and Response.
The Loop Current has flattened out just north of Cuba and is not known to be carrying the oil and dispersants toward Miami at this time. This development reduces the immediate threat of oil reaching the Seaquarium, but there are caveats. First, very little is known, or made public by BP, about the extent of the undersea plumes of oil and dispersants and where they may be spreading, which may have very little connection to the surface winds and currents. Secondly, the Loop Current could reorganize into its normal pattern of looping far to the north of Cuba and the Keys, which could then bring those undersea plumes into the Loop and carry it to Miami's doorstep. As explained in the article linked below:
"the loop current will eventually reshape itself. Will it be soon enough to move oil south?" "It's not only hard to predict, it's almost an art to forecast," said Muller-Karger.
All the news is about surface oil, but BP has sprayed a reported 1.8 million gallons (probably much more) of Corexit on the oil, mostly at the wellhead 5,000 feet down, to prevent it from coming to the surface. NOAA and the news media seem to be operating as if this was a surface spill, so all we hear about is the surface oil, but the combination of Corexit and oil at depth is extremely toxic. Corexit works by breaking down oil molecules, but the cell walls of every living thing from algae on up is made of lipids that are broken down by Corexit. So the Corexit penetrates the skin and dissolves tissues, while opening the skin to the emulsified oil. And yet nobody seems to be watching to see where it is going. Or is anybody?
The probable path of the oil and dispersant as of July 14, according to the Florida Geospatial Assessment Tool for Operations and Response. The red line is the Loop Current, one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean, at .8m/sec., or 42.9 miles per day (69.1 km/day). The oil and dispersant are just north of the Loop Current and moving south.
Contact the Eastern Regional Director of the USDA - APHIS Animal Care, to make sure steps are being taken to evacuate Lolita from the path of the spreading oil.
Betty Goldentyer, D.V.M.
Eastern Regional Director
USDA - APHIS Animal Care
920 Main Campus Drive-Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 716-5532 - Office
(919) 716-5696 - Fax
Below are recent stories on the oil/dispersant plumes:
Almost 80 percent of BP's spilled oil still threatens Gulf, report finds August 17, 2010 (Institute for Southern Studies)
"One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless," says author Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant and a professor in UGA's Department of Marine Sciences. "The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are."
Reports focus on lingering effects of Gulf oil spill August 17, 2010 (CNN)
A team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that gushed from the well "has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem," the university said in a release.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of South Florida have concluded that oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected -- and at levels toxic to marine life. Their study is to be released Tuesday, as well, but CNN obtained a summary of the initial conclusions Monday night.
The BP Cover-Up August 11, 2010 (Mother Jones)
Though it won't be understood for weeks, the Deepwater Horizon is different from any other spill in human history. The extreme technology used to drill at unprecedented depths lacks the extreme safety equipment and protocols needed to stave off disaster. BP, gambling at the border of controllable engineering, has lost spectacularly in its bid to be the deepest and cheapest driller of them all.
That's because untreated oil quickly rises to the surface, where it can be skimmed with relative ease. But treated with dispersant, it becomes a submerged plume, unlikely to ever float to the surface, and destined to migrate through underwater currents to the entire Gulf basin and eventually the North Atlantic. "Oil is toxic to most life. And Corexit is toxic to most life. But the most toxic of all is oil that's been treated with Corexit." Plus, dispersants may well kill the ocean's first line of defense against oil: the natural microbes that break oil down for other microbes to eat."
Rabalais and others also worry about the Gulf's sperm whales, which feed on squid living in the deep scattering layer. An estimated 1,665 sperm whales inhabit (and perhaps never leave) the northern waters of the Gulf.
And it's not only sperm whales. The Gulf is home to 29 species of cetaceans, many of which feed on the DSL, including spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, pilot whales, killer whales, and many secretive deep divers such as beaked and bottlenose whales.
Gulf of Mexico expedition launched by Oceana August 10, 2010 (fishnewseu.com)
THE environmental campaigning organisation, Oceana has kicked off the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Expedition studying the Florida Keys, a habitat affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Oceana Latitude - the 53 meter long vessel chartered by the international marine conservation organization - set sail from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) with scientists, professional divers and a submarine robot (ROV) equipped with high definition cameras. Among its objectives is to verify whether the spill has entered the Loop Current, a possibility that could imply its arrival in the Atlantic via the Gulf Stream.
NOAA Tried to Silence Reports of Undersea Oil Plumes August 10, 2010 (Mother Jones)
Speaking of the BP cover-up, there are two very important pieces of news today about the extent to which the real impacts of the disaster have been hidden. In the St. Petersburg Times, Craig Pittman has this scathing report on how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attempted to silence scientists who discovered the vast undersea plumes of dispersed oil in the Gulf:
USF says government tried to squelch their oil plume findings August 9, 2010 (St. Petersberg Times)
Lubchenco's agency came under fire last week for a new report that said "the vast majority" of the oil from Deepwater Horizon had been taken care of. Scientists who read the report closely said it actually said half the oil was still unaccounted for.
Lubchenco said anyone who read the report as saying the oil was gone read it wrong.
Did US Gulf coast dodge an ecological bullet? August 5, 2010 (Moneycontrol.com)
Scientists know little about an underwater oil plume that could create undersea "dead zones," and the impact of oil-based toxins could take years to filter through the thousands of species that live in the Gulf.
Gulf Oil Spill Gone? Not So Fast August 5, 2010 (Texas A&M News & Information Services)
Reports saying that 75 percent of the gulf oil spill has either been cleaned up or broken down by natural forces are likely incorrect, and there are still big problems lurking beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, says a Texas A&M scientist who conducted one of the first on-site studies of the spill.
John Kessler, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Geosciences, says reports that most of the gulf oil has disappeared and appears no longer to be a problem are misleading, if not totally inaccurate. Bottom line, he explains: there are still large amounts of oil and gas in the gulf and they still pose big problems.
He notes that even oil and gas that has been broken down naturally, or bio-degraded, still can present problems because it tends to remove oxygen from the water. If enough oxygen is removed, the waters can become hypoxic and these oxygen-depleted waters can create "dead zones" that can be harmful to marine life.
"Even if it is dissolved or dispersed, the oil can still be toxic to marine life even in very small amounts" he adds.
"Also, the reports coming out mention nothing of the huge amounts of natural gas we know that came out alongside the oil, and this methane is almost one-half of the material that was emitted from the well. We know a very large plume or cloud of methane still exists about 3,000 feet below the ocean surface, and that's a huge concern itself.
JC: There has been a great deal of discussion about the disappearance of the animals and the life in the ocean which seem to have vanished since this incident has occurred. What do you know about this?
RO: Well I have been down in the Gulf since May 3rd. It's pretty consistent what I have heard. First I heard from the offshore workers and the boat captains that were coming in and they would see windrows of dead things piled up on the barrier islands; turtles and birds and dolphins... whales...
RO: And whales. There would be stories from boat captains of offshore, we started calling death gyres, where the rips all the different currents sweep the oceans surface, that would be the collection points for hundreds of dolphins and sea turtles and birds and even whales floating. So we got four different times latitudes/longitude coordinates where (this was happening) but by the time we got to these lat/longs which is always a couple of days later there was nothing there. There was boom put around these areas to collect the animals and we know this happened at Exxon Valdez too. The rips are where the dead things collect. We also know from Exxon Valdez that only 1% in our case of the carcasses that floated off to sea actually made landfall in the Gulf of Alaska. I don't believe there have been any carcass drift studies down here that would give us some indication that when something does wash up on the beach what percentage it is of the whole. But we know that offshore there was an attempt by BP and the government to keep the animals from coming onshore in great numbers. The excuse was this was a health problem -- we don't want to create a health hazard. That would only be a good excuse if they kept tallies of all the numbers because all the numbers - all the animals - are evidence for federal court. We the people own these animals and they become evidence for damages to charge for BP. In Exxon Valdez the carcasses were kept under triple lock and key security until the natural resource damage assessment study was completed and that was 2 1/2 years after the spill. Then all the animals were burned but not until then.
So people offshore were reporting this first and then carcasses started making it onshore. Then I started hearing from people in Alabama a lot and the western half of Florida - a little bit in Mississippi - but mostly what was going on then there was an attempt to keep people off the beaches, cameras off the beaches. I was literally flying in a plane and the FAA boundary changed. It was offshore first with the barrier islands and all of a sudden it just hopped right to shore to Alabama that's where we were flying over and the pilot was just like - he couldn't believe it - he was like look at that and I didn't know what he was looking but then he points at the little red line which had all of sudden grown and he just looked at me and said the only reason that they have done this is so people can't see what is going on. And what that little red line meant was no cameras on shore and three days later the oil came onshore and the carcasses came onshore into Alabama.
The Crime of the Century: What BP and the US Government Don't Want You to Know, Part I August 4, 2010 (ABC News)
The research vessel will leave Friday and head back to the oily waters off the Panhandle, Alabama, and Louisiana coast, gathering samples for 12 days on the Gulf of Mexico.
The water samples in May revealed underwater plumes of hydrocarbons suspended in the water column. Some of the deepwater plumes measured more than 20-miles long, and were found off the coast of Mobile, Alabama - far away from the surface spill.
Officials, Experts Voice Concerns on Dispersants August 4, 2010 (Courthouse News)
Environmental experts called the use of chemical dispersants on the BP oil spill an "experiment" with "massive unknowns" in a Senate hearing Wednesday, as federal officials both defended BP's use of the chemicals and called for more research.
"The long-term effects on aquatic life are still significantly unknown," said Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas during a joint hearing of the Senate Environment Committee and an oversight subcommittee.
"Their use is clearly a lose-lose situation," said Oceana senior scientist Jackie Savitz. "The decision to use dispersants may have saved some birds in marshes while increasing the impacts on fish and other marine life. How can we say what is more important?" She called on the government to stop offshore drilling altogether, saying, "It's a tradeoff."
Deepwater Horizon: A scientist at the centre of the spill August 4, 2010 (Nature)
It took some time for researchers to make sense of the data, but all the signs suggested that a deep, hidden plume of oily water was spreading away from the gusher.
The deep-oil discovery was not good news for BP.
What baffled Asper and his colleagues, however, was NOAA's cool response to the Pelican data. The day after the ship returned to shore, NOAA asked the researchers to postpone talking to the press to allow time for regrouping. On the same day, the agency issued a statement about the plumes calling media reports on the team's work "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate".
Within weeks of the Pelican 's return, other researchers were finding corroborating evidence for the deep oil plume.
Lubchenco announced that NOAA had confirmed the presence of low concentrations of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well in deep plumes: specifically hydrocarbons in the parts per million range, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — carcinogenic oil-breakdown products — in the parts per trillion range.
The Florida team is scheduled to head out on another research cruise this week, but university administrators arranged funding for the trip independent of NOAA and BP.
"It is still a mystery to us why NOAA is not recognizing our data set."
Researchers can't answer basic questions such as whether deep oil and gas will be exported from the Gulf into the Atlantic, and what is the most effective ratio of dispersant to oil.
For now, Asper is planning his group's next cruise to the spill zone and trying to keep up with interview requests. Previously, he was pondering whether to accept an offer to work as a consultant for BP to help guide its response to the spill. When first contacted by a BP lawyer about the possibility of working on retainer, Asper was sceptical. "I think he wants to make sure I don't testify against BP," he said.
Scientists Deeply Concerned About BP Disaster's Long-Term Impact August 2, 2010 (Truthout)
Gulfport, Louisiana - Contrary to recent media reports of a quick recovery in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists and biologists are "deeply concerned" about impacts that will likely span "several decades".
"The impacts of the Exxon Valdez are still being felt 21 years later," Cake said, "The impacts of the Ixtoc-1 are still being felt and known, 31 years later. I know folks who study oysters in bays in the Yucatan Peninsula, and oysters there have still not returned, 31 years later. So as an oyster biologist I'm concerned about that. Those things are still affected 31 years later, and that was a smaller spill by comparison."
"Corexit breaks the oil up into micro-globules," Dr. Cake said, "That's the harmful part for oysters. Oysters are filter feeders, and they feed on a range of three to 12 millionths of a meter as particles. You can grind up graphite from a pencil in fine enough particles and they'll run it through their system. It's the same with the micro- globules of oil. They'll be taken in, but in going through the system, and in absorbing some of that oil, it'll cause lesions. So it's actually what the Corexit does to the oil that'll affect the oysters in the end."
Gulf Loop Current Stalls from BP Oil Disaster August 1, 2010 (Examiner.com)
To help understand why, let's assume that what is really happening in the Gulf is not much different from what happens when you shake a bottle of oil and vinegar salad dressing. Leave the bottle on the shelf for a while and the oil and vinegar will naturally separate, each with it's own unique viscosity.
However, when the bottle is shaken the two are mixed. This creates a new, and overall thicker viscosity, hence the dressing pours more slowly. In very simple terms, this is what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, which begs another question.
Documents indicate heavy use of dispersants in gulf oil spill July 30, 2010 (Washington Post)
Despite the order -- and concerns about the environmental effects of the dispersants -- the Coast Guard granted requests to use them 74 times over 54 days, and to use them on the surface and deep underwater at the well site. The Coast Guard approved every request submitted by BP or local Coast Guard commanders in Houma, La., although in some cases it reduced the amount of the chemicals they could use, according to an analysis of the documents prepared by the office of Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).
Some of them dealt with separate dispersant applications on the same day. Markey said it appeared that the order "has become more of a meaningless paperwork exercise" than a real attempt to curb use of the dispersants.
Scientists Find Evidence That Oil And Dispersant Mix Is Making Its Way Into The Foodchain July 29, 2010 (Huffington Post)
In part due to the1.8 million gallons of dispersant that BP used, a lot of the estimated 200 million or more gallons of oil that spewed out of the blown well remains under the surface of the Gulf in plumes of tiny toxic droplets. And it's short- and long-term effects could be profound.
BP sprayed dispersant onto the surface of the slick and into the jet of oil and gas as it erupted out of the wellhead a mile beneath the surface. As a result, less oil reached the surface and the Gulf's fragile coastline. But more remained under the surface.
Oil itself is of course toxic, especially over long exposure. But some scientists worry that the mixture of oil with dispersants will actually prove more toxic, in part because of the still not entirely understood ingredients of Corexit, and in part because of the reduction in droplet size.
"Corexit is in the water column, just as we thought, and it is entering the bodies of animals. And it's probably having a lethal impact there," said Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute. The dispersant, she said, is like " a delivery system" for the oil.
Gulf oil spill: 100 days, 10 lessons July 29, 2010 (Miami Herald)
1. South Florida got lucky. Before BP's blowout, only ocean and hurricane scientists -- and some sophisticated fishermen -- knew much about the now famous Loop Current.
The powerful pipeline, which can surge deep into the offshore drilling zone, puts the fragile Florida Keys and Miami-Dade and Broward beaches more at risk from big spills than anywhere in the state outside the Panhandle. The loop actually acts as a protective barrier for Sarasota, Naples and many other communities sitting smack on the Gulf.
The loop sucked in tendrils of oil, but South Florida caught a lucky -- and literal -- break in the current. The ever-shifting loop spun off a huge eddy that blocked the mess from moving south. With the industry pushing to drill deeper down the Continental Shelf, and deeper into areas under the influence of the loop, South Florida might not get away so cleanly next time.
2. It doesn't all float: The massive slick has largely vanished -- partly consumed by microbes and worked on by wind, waves and sun -- but perhaps tens of millions of gallons may still be under water.
The discovery of vast deep sea plumes -- thought to be the result of chemical dispersant reducing the gushing flow into tiny suspended droplets -- has destroyed conventional wisdom about what happens when oil and seawater mix. Particularly when you add an unprecedented volume of chemical dispersants.
BP initially dismissed they were there.
Now, the plumes -- likened to underwater clouds of mist -- rank among the biggest cleanup concerns. Federal and academic researchers can't say for sure yet how big they are, what is likely to happen to them over time or whether the concentrations, which fade from strong around the well to barely detectable 40 miles away, are toxic to marine life.
UGA oceanographer going back to Gulf of Mexico July 28, 2010 (Miami Herald)
A research team will return to the Gulf of Mexico next month to map underwater plumes of oil and gas, a University of Georgia oceanographer said.
A team led by oceanographer Samantha Joye tracked one plume during research voyages in May and June. She said no one has made a systematic sweep around the massive oil spill in the Gulf to find other plumes.
Joye says it's been about two months since anyone measured underwater oxygen in the area.
Majority of spilled oil in Gulf of Mexico unaccounted for in government data July 28, 2010 (Washington Post)
"That stuff's somewhere," said James H. Cowan Jr., a professor at Louisiana State University. His research has shown concentrations of oil still floating miles from the wellhead. "It's going to be with us for a while. I'm worried about some habitats being exposed chronically to low concentrations of toxins. . . . If the water's contaminated, the animals are going to be contaminated."
Surface oil from Gulf spill in bits and hard to collect July 27, 2010 (Seattle Times)
Tempering the good news, however, are ongoing concerns about the impacts of massive plumes of oil that had been discovered beneath the ocean surface since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. In late May and early June, researchers from the University of Georgia found one of these plumes estimated to be 15 miles long, five miles wide and 300 feet thick, at depths of 2,300 to 4,200 feet.
David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said with less oil on the water's surface, "the chances of a big slug of oil making its way to the beaches and wetlands and the like is reduced.
"But what we don't know is what's going to happen to these enormous undersea plumes. ... Will they move with the currents? Will they wash up someday? Will it all sink to the bottom and smother the sea life down there? We don't know."
In a separate news conference Monday, Thad Allen, the federal spill-response chief, said that while the 794 skimmers would keep hunting for small surface oil patches, crews would also focus on "the oil we can't see," with the help of NOAA, which is conducting what he called an "aggregate MRI" of the water column in attempt to find the undersea oil. "We're going to have tar balls and other kinds of impacts that are going to go on for a long, long time," Allen said. " ... There's still a lot of oil that's unaccounted for."
Miami Seaquarium Plagued With Problems As BP Oil Contamination Looms- Orca Whale Lolita at Risk July 24, 2010 (PR Log)
The Gulf oil spill caused by oil giant BP is now threatening captive marine mammals, including the beloved orca whale Lolita, in the Miami Seaquarium of Florida. Emergency evacuation preparedness to be implemented.
Our government leaders need to take immediate action to ensure the safety of the marine life at the Miami Seaquarium and require they bring ALL provisions of animal welfare, including marine mammal housing size, into compliance with current APHIS Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act as well as repair, replace and/or upgrade all safety, NEC and NFPA code violations until those items are in compliance with current standards.
Subsurface Oil Clouds From BP Well
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 23, 2010) - University of South Florida researchers have definitively connected clouds of degraded underwater oil found in the northern Gulf of Mexico to the Deepwater Horizon well through a chemical fingerprinting process.
The confirmation by USF chemical oceanographer David Hollander is the first direct scientific link established between the subsurface oil clouds - commonly known as "plumes" - and the massive BP spill. Scientists had gathered ample circumstantial evidence to link the subsurface oil to the Deepwater Horizon well, but had lacked a definitive scientific link until now.
"What we have learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is," Hollander said. "It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe."
Biodegraded oil was found suspended at depths of 400 meters (one-quarter mile) and 1,000-to 1,400-meters (two-thirds to three-quarters of a mile) beneath the Gulf's surface in the form of microscopic droplets.
Researchers from across USF's College of Marine Science are now conducting exhaustive work on determining what impact the spill, the subsurface degraded oil and the heavy use of chemical dispersants may have for marine life and the Gulf's ecology.
As loop current splits, South Florida catches a break July 22, 2010 (Tampa Bay News)
The powerful Gulf of Mexico loop current, which seemed primed three months ago to thrust oil to the Florida Keys and beyond, suddenly changed course and helped protect much of Florida's cherished shorelines.
Scientists are watching what comes next.
The loop current will eventually reshape itself. Will it be soon enough to move oil south?
"It's not only hard to predict, it's almost an art to forecast," said Muller-Karger.
For now, many scientists say the likelihood of large amounts of BP oil being carried to South Florida or the East Coast are diminishing with each passing day.
Scientists Worry Current Could Carry Oil to Keys July 17, 2010 (ABC News)
Chemicals being sprayed underwater are helping to disperse the oil and keep it from washing ashore in great quantities, but researchers said that in recent days they have discovered miles-long underwater plumes of oil that could poison or suffocate sea life across the food chain, with damage that could last for a decade or more.
Gulf oil spill: Will it hit Miami, Fort Lauderdale soon? July 2, 2010 (Christian Science Monitor)
Oil is more likely to keep moving east because of the so-called loop current, NOAA officials said in a report issued Friday. The likelihood of the Gulf oil spill soon hitting the Keys and the southeastern coast of Florida is 80 percent, according to the officials.
It is highly likely that oil moving through the Gulf of Mexico will soon end up affecting the Florida Keys and the Miami and Fort Lauderdale coastlines, say officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Analysis: Doing nothing might have been best for oil spill June 28, 2010 (Reuters)
Marine biology and environmental experts said they feared the aggressive cleanup operation, during which oil has been set alight and oil-dispersing chemicals have been dumped into the sea, might be more damaging than the oil itself.
Previous experience suggests that containing the oil out at sea but otherwise leaving it alone to disperse and evaporate naturally is better in the long run but is regarded as politically unacceptable, they said.
Christoph Gertler of Bangor University, who has been studying various potential bacterial remedies for oil spills, said reports by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested that dispersants were "changing the nature of the oil in a very unfavorable way," making it more difficult for naturally occurring marine bacteria to break it down.
Seaquarium Plans For Worst-Case If Oil Arrives June 16, 2010 (CBS4 Miami)
The Miami Seaquarium is putting together a contingency plan to protect is animals from the crude that continues to threaten South Florida's tourism economy.
Park officials say they are taking precautions in advance of any oil arriving here because it operates on an open system, which means it uses water from Biscayne Bay to house its marine wildlife. If the oil reaches Biscayne Bay, the Virginia Key marine-life park could be devastated, according to Andrew Hertz, General Manager of the Miami Seaquarium.
Oil spill spurs call to remove killer whale from Miami Seaquarium June 15, 2010 (Miami Herald)
A rallying cry to return Lolita, the killer whale, to her original home in Puget Sound is growing intense as oil and toxic dispersants drift toward the Florida Coast.
It is a critical time to remove the orca and the other animals from Miami's Seaquarium - before oil reaches the area, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has been trying for years to convince the aquarium owners to return Lolita to Puget Sound.
Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is the last living Puget Sound killer whale in captivity. She was captured in Whidbey Island's Penn Cove on Aug. 8, 1970 - 40 years ago next month. For most of her life, the whale has lived in a tank filled with seawater pumped out of nearby Biscayne Bay.
Gov. Charlie Crist pledges oil ads for South Florida June 14, 2010 (Miami Herald)
Andrew Hertz, general manager of the Miami Seaquarium, said the Virginia Key marine-life park could be devastated if oil reaches Biscayne Bay. The Seaquarium uses bay water to house its wildlife, and may have to take drastic and expensive measures -- such as closing off its water system -- to protect its assets.
"We don't have it in our budget to make sea water like Sea World does," Hertz said, estimating the cost of doing so at about $5 million. Hertz later said he "has no direction" yet on how to proceed.
And though BP is promising millions in aid, the company has refused to offer a sample of its oil to University of South Florida scientists who are working to confirm the source of the oil clouds, said the study's chief investigator, David Hollander.
"I was just taken aback by it," Hollander said. "It was a little unsettling."
On Tuesday, USF scientists announced they had found concentrations of oil-related chemicals 42 miles northeast of the Deepwater Horizon rig and 142 miles to the southeast. Some of the substance was found two-thirds of a mile below the surface.
CNN/Marine Toxicologist, Oil/Corexit Effects on Shrimpers
Susan Shaw: The oil spill's toxic trade-off This 16 minute talk by a toxicologist explains how Corexit works, and how it affects marine life in combination with oil. What we don't know is where it went, because almost nobody is looking for it.
Comparison of Acute Aquatic Effects of the Oil Dispersant Corexit 9500
with Those of Other Corexit Series Dispersants ECOTOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY 35, 183-189 (1996) ARTICLE NO. 0098
Dispersants are complex mixtures, primarily containing both charged and uncharged surfactants, as well as solvents. Their purpose is to orient at the oil-water interface, lower interfacial tension, and thus facilitate the formation of small (under 100 mm) mixed oil-surfactant micelles (Canevari, 1973, 1978; National Research Council, 1989). The acute toxicity of dispersants is generally attributed to the effects of their surface-active components on biological membranes; the typical reaction to surfactant exposure involves disruption of respiratory cells, often resulting from electrolytic and/or osmotic imbalance (Abel, 1974; Abel and Skidmore, 1975; McKeown and March, 1978; Wells, 1984; National Research Council, 1989).
Leading Ocean Scientists Issue Consensus Statement to End Dispersant Use in Gulf, Call for Independent Research Although the gusher is currently capped, deep concern about negative impacts the dispersant/crude oil mix will have on both the marine ecosystem and human health has prompted leading ocean scientists to issue a consensus statement that urges a halt to any further dispersant use in the Gulf.
Initial signatories include:
* Sylvia A. Earle, PhD, Ocean Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society; Advisory Council Chairman, Harte Research Institute
* Susan D. Shaw, DrPH, Marine Toxicologist, Director, Marine Environmental Research Institute
* Carl Safina, PhD, President, Blue Ocean Institute
* David Gallo, PhD, Oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
* David Guggenheim, PhD, Marine Biologist/Conservationist, President, 1planet1ocean - a project of The Ocean Foundation
* Edith Widder, PhD, President and Senior Scientist, Ocean Research & Conservation Association
* Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences
Take Action Now! Below is an updated letter composed by John Keilty to USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which, according to the law, inspects and enforces the Animal Welfare Act. Simply copy and paste the letter, with your additions if desired, and the list of email addresses, and send away.
No joke: Killer whales roam Gulf of Mexico March 25, 2009 (MSNBC)
But Hall's description of what he saw last Oct. 31 was no tall tale: A government biologist who saw video taken from Hall's boat confirmed the captain had spotted the creatures. And last week that same scientist, Keith Mullin, explained at a public meeting in Orange Beach, Ala., that yes, contrary to common perceptions, killer whales really do live in the Gulf, far from land.
"There were four different pods. We estimated there were about 200 maximum. One pod had 75 in it," said Hall, who runs charters out of Zeke's Landing in Orange Beach, about 40 miles east of Mobile.
People on the boat took video and photos, including some with the offshore rig in the background to identify their location. But Hall said they got laughed off the dock when they returned.
Gulf orcas are just like the ones that live in cold water, Mullin said, save for their diet of dolphin and tuna instead of seals. Male killer whales average 20 feet in length and weigh as much as 12,000 pounds, but females are smaller.
Fifteen groups of killer whales have been sighted in the Gulf since deep-water surveys began in 1992, he said. Past estimates have varied widely, from a low of 49 to a high of 277 living in the Gulf north of a line extending from Key West, Fla., to Brownsville, Texas.
The actual number of killer whales in the Gulf could be closer to 500, Mullin said, and a two-month expedition this summer could help nail down an answer. The trip was planned independently of the boat's sighting, he said.