5 June 2010
BP: No Subsurface Oil Plumes In Gulf- Wrong
Posted by Dan Satterfield
There’s been a lot of talk about plumes of oil beneath the surface in the Gulf of Mexico. I haven’t said anything here or on air about it because I wasn’t sure who was right. BP says there are not. Several sources in the media say they’ve been told there are.
The evidence now seems pretty conclusive that there are indeed subsurface plumes of oil.
Here is the evidence.
Exhibit ONE is from Dr. Samantha Joye a scientist from the Univ. of Georgia. She is on board the Research Vessel Walton Smith in the Gulf. Her group is following up on the discovery made by researchers from the Univ. of South Mississippi onboard the PELICAN that deep-water plumes were evident.
Using equipment on board to measure properties of deep ocean water, they have found a plume of oil about 3.5km wide and 16 km long to the SW of the Deepwater Horizon leak. Other groups have discovered a plume to the NE of the spewing well head.
Using water samples they have confirmed that the water at the depths where the instruments are seeing strong indications of oil is in fact very oily!
Dr. Joye is writing a blog of their observations and it is well worth a read.
Now for Exhibit TWO.
We go to the University of South Florida’s Ocean Circulation Group.
They decided to run a numerical ocean model to test what would happen to oil released at say 1200 meters beneath the surface. Where would it go. Would it stay there, or would it rise. If it stayed deep, what shape would the plume make?
So here’s what they found:
This model data is in sigma levels, but you can interpret it easily. Blue is deep and red is near the surface. The gray circle is the site of the modeled release which is where the gusher in the Gulf is located. The actual well is about 1600 meters down.
Do you see what I see? A plume SW and another NE at great depth.
I thought so.
Science is about observations and predictions. We have both here. They match up pretty well.
Unless someone can show some decent evidence to the contrary, the assumption that there are deep-water plumes of oil in the Gulf and that they are coming from the broken well head, is on pretty solid scientific ground.
Many thanks for this data. I suspect that BP don’t want the truth to emerge because it will have an adverse impact on the final costs of cleaning up the mess and also on compensation claims that will inevitably follow.
Sadly the plumes will be around a lot longer than the surface oil spill. This means they will continue to spread and seriously deplete the dissolved oxygen thus creating dead zones. They will also hit beaches and wetlands just the same as the surface oil in time. Hurricanes will ensure that happens. The issue of oil plume pollution transport is so uncertain no-one can be totally certain how long the ‘long term effects’ really will be
BP will, if they can, suppress the plume data right from the start and claim that any subsequent damage is being caused by something else entirely. If the plumes are positively identified and subsequently proven to be the cause of any long term damage then BP will be in extremely deep water.
Either way the situation is dire. BP have been involved in both a spill prevention and long term damage limitation exercise since the beginning. Both have been woefully inadequate, badly planned and disastrously executed. The only outcome will be a totally wrecked environment.
Within the damage limitation efforts they have also tried to suppress the press and media reporting whenever they could, deny the figures presented by the scientific community regards the oil flow rates, refused to obey the EPA who ordered them to stop using the oil dispersant because of the unknown effects on the environment and are now embarked on a denial initiative regarding the plumes.
When does being in the wrong finally elicit an admission of guilt from the perpetrators of the destruction? What part of the truth do BP not get?
Keep up the excellent work Dan. Its people like you that keep us all in the loop regarding the real truth about our planet and its weather.