New Study Suggests the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Spread Further than Originally Estimated

Ryan F., journalist

Thanks to modern technology, scientists think that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have spread its pollution further than what we originally thought. The original estimates were based off of satellite images taken of the oil spill off of the coast of Mexico. The spill itself was almost 800 million liters of oil. The satellite images were used to estimate where the oil had gone in order to find out which areas needed to be temporarily closed off to be cleaned. However, now, almost a decade later, scientists have run computer simulations that suggest the oil may have spread further than we originally thought.

The simulation took into account evaporation of the oil and ocean currents, as well as other, minor factors. Due to the accuracy of the simulation, we believe the satellite images may have missed 30% of the spillage (at least) according to biological oceanographer Claire Paris-Limouzy. She and her colleagues at the University of Miami reported in Science Advances on February 12th of this year that the simulations predicted there being sections of the ocean where the oil concentration was high enough to possibly endanger and kill ocean life in the Gulf. They later found that both samples taken form water and sediments in certain parts of the Gulf support the results.

According to the report in Science Advances, Most of the oil had collected in an area of the gulf that spanned from its north to its central areas. The original closing of the ocean only covered about 70% of where the oil spilled according to the simulation and study. The areas missed are near Texas and Florida- in places where fishing had not been allowed for years. It will be interesting to see how many future spills’ clean-ups will be estimated by this technology in accordance with satellite imaging. Hopefully, these simulations will help us continue to clean pollution more effectively.

Works Cited

Berenshtein et al. Invisible oil beyond the Deepwater Horizon satellite footprint. Science Advances. Published online February 12, 2020. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aaw8863.

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