Grim News from the Gulf: Invisible Plumes and Bleaker Estimates

Get ready for a long slog forward

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The situation in the Gulf was looking good for a while. But the recent discovery of a massive, invisible underwater oil plume is changing that outlook. Here are some of the latest developments that bode ill for those hoping for a quick cleanup:

  • The New Plume "Take Manhattan, turn it into oil and drop it in the Gulf," writes Discover's Andrew Moseman. "That’s the size of the submerged oil plume that scientists found ... casting more doubt on those claims that the plumes weren't so bad, or that most of the oil has been accounted for." Moseman notes "the team's numbers draw them into direct conflict with those provided by the government," but points out, too, that "everybody's estimates are complicated by the sheer difficulty of tracking and predicting the flow of oil in water."
  • How Much Oil? 'Pick a Number'  The latest estimate, writes Randy Rieland at environmental hub Grist, is that "only 10 percent of the oil that gushed out of the Deepwater Horizon well was 'actually removed from the ocean.'" That's one of the more "pessimistic" estimates thus far, and comes from an oceanographer at Florida State University. It's also "wildly at odds with what the feds have been saying--that as much as 75 of the oil is gone."
  • Dead Zones  Julia Whitty at Mother Jones focuses on a separate study, a "simulation of oil and methane leaked into the Gulft" which "suggests that deep hypoxic zones, also known as dead zones, could form near the source of the pollution. ... Dead zones," she explains, "occur where oxygen levels have dropped blow the threshold to support most marine life." Here's the problem, she continues: "the last thing the Gulf of Mexico needs is anymore dead zones. It's already home to the second largest dead zone on Earth, a side-effect of fertilizer overuse in North America's breadbasket."
  • And the Blame Game  "The real story," insists Gawker's Jeff Neumann, "is the growing spat between BP and Transocean Ltd. over who did what wrong, and when they did it and what they've done with the evidence." He looks at Transocean's accusation that BP withheld information when the rig exploded.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.