Friday, April 30, 2010

Gulf Oil Slick Worsens

It has been estimated that up to 5,000 barrels of oil (210,000 gallons) are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico every day from an offshore drilling rig. An explosion on April 20, 2010 caused the rig to eventually capsize and sink.

The oil slick is moving towards the Louisiana coastline and the Mississippi River delta. This coastline is very different from a normal coastline. There are no sandy beaches. Instead, the coastline is made up of swampy marshes. If the oil makes it into these areas, it will be nearly impossible to clean.

These images of the affected area were captured on April 25 by the MODIS on NASA’s Aqua satellite. The Mississippi Delta is at image center, and the oil slick is a silvery swirl to the right. The oil slick may be particularly obvious because it is occurring in the sunglint area, where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun off the water gives the Gulf of Mexico a washed-out look.

The initial explosion killed eleven people and injured several others, and a fire burned at the location for more than a day until the damaged oil rig sank. An emergency response effort is underway to stop the flow of oil and contain the existing slick before it reaches wildlife refuges and beaches in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The slick may contain dispersant or other chemicals that emergency responders are using to control the spread of the oil, and it is unknown how much of the 700,000 gallons of fuel that were on the oil rig burned in the fire and how much may have spilled into the water when the platform sank.

On April 25, 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Emergency Response Division issued the following update on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident in the Gulf of Mexico: “An attempt to control the leaking well using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was not successful, and the well continues to leak.”

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