Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Capped: Here’s the So What.

This week the Deepwater Horizon Response team successfully capped the leaking well with its team of Remote Operated Submarines. While it is still not certain that these caps will hold, or entirely end the disaster, it marked the first time since April 20th, that oil stopped leaking into the Gulf.


A look at BP’s live feeds of the spill, is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

A look at the most recent Google Earth imagery, however, is still an eyesore.


After 87 days, and more than 90,000,000 gallons of oil spilled, this is certainly a cause for tempered celebration, as if we were a triple amputee, elated at the fact that we get to keep our final limb.

The Gulf is now four days free of additional leaking, yet the figure of 581 miles of oiled shoreline, is a guarantee to increase. Seven thousand vessels and 40,000 hands remain deployed on cleanup process, with years of work ahead.

As of July 12, BP spent an estimated 3.5 Billion on its cleanup processes. This is actually a meager figure, considering their average annual revenue exceeds 12 billion.

Imagery from the day before the end of the spill from MODIS/Skytruth shows a significantly lessened sheen on the surface from a month ago:


Surface reports, however, are a tempered method of assessing the damage. Much of the accessible oil on the surface was burned off in the largest “controlled burns” since the first Gulf War. The these burns have created elevated levels of Methane, Hexane, and other Neurotoxins in the air from New Orleans to Florida. An artist, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, compares the smell to huffing oil paint.

What comes up, must come down, and now the Gulf States will have to content with exponentially larger quantities of sulfur dioxide in their rainfall, leading to a contamination of inland freshwater ecosystems.

The sheen is at its most megalithic below the surface, with slicks the size of small states. While the surface is certainly clearer, the effects are starting to make themselves known up the Atlantic Coast.

As we reported earlier on GeoCurrents, the Sheen had entered the North Atlantic Loop Current, and this has been corroborated with reports of oil washing ashorein near Jacksonville and St. Augustine, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

The video below represents and academic projection of the oil’s progress from the loop current, through the Atlantic coast.


While this continues, our elected representatives will continue squabbling, pretending to act in our best interests while their proposed ban on drilling is related only to worker fatalities, without sufficient environmental safeguards.

The congressional attack on BP for their supposed under the table dealings to free the Libyan Lockerbie bomber is but another attempt to divert attention and culpability through the fearmongering veil of terrorism. After all, if Cheney had not been looking tosave his billionaire cronies a few meager thousands by reigning back safety standards, the disaster may have been prevented altogether.

However, America is now in an era of de-facto legalized bribery through its lobbying machinery, leading to “Pervasive Corruption and a Poverty Trap.” Look for our elected representatives to follow all the red herrings in its investigation of its patrons.

Unfortunately we don’t have one of Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Operatives, with an oiled gull as his client, to go Blood Simple on those behind this once in a generation disaster, and those preventing proper regulation.

The hones falls on us to do what we can, to support forward thinking organizations and representatives. The gulf ecosystems have been irreversibly damaged, and organizations such as the International Bird Rescue, the National Wildlife Rescue, and A Matter of Trust are in need of financial support at this time to continue their efforts for years to come.

An ideological shift, however, is an even more important development that must result from the disaster. A new crop of muckrakers, reformists, and activists must spring forth to remove this country from the belly of its dying machinery.

After 87 days and 90,000,000 Gallons, the status quo has remains. The cap on the well may stop the flow, but the social and political ills are still gushing torrents.



Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Capped: Here’s the So What. Read More »

Deepwater Horizon: Grassroots Mapping & Spill Projections

Since our last post on the Gulf Oil Slick, little progress has come, with the exception of a small containment dome & riser pipe to mitigate a minor percentage of the of the total flow.


The addiction to oil has made this Gulf Spill, something of an inevitability. After all, a spill near this calibre happened decades ago with Ixtoc, yet the rules had not tightened. This photograph, posted in the google earth forums, shows the Gulf of Mexico at night. The sheer volume of lights offshore highlight the ubiquity of gulf drilling operations.


The oil has been flowing for so long, now, that the slick has now progressed out into the Atlantic, via the Gulf Stream Loop Current. A visualization of this is available in this projection below from UCAR.


Here we’d like to highlight a major ongoing development in the geographic web to monitor the spill, Grassroots Mapping, brought to our attention by SpatialSustain.

This campaign is centered on getting as many kites outfitted with observation censors in the sky to act as independent observation stations on the gulf.


For up to date spill estimates and figures, please continue to consult Skytruth, as your primary source for information.

Deepwater Horizon: Grassroots Mapping & Spill Projections Read More »

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth

The Gulf Oil Slick as of 5/8/10



After last week’s dystopian projections on GeoCurrents, last Monday’s New York Times countered with unreasonably rosy projections. Good news sells papers. The article conveyed a sense of hope in its readers that the spill, was not as large as feared, and could be easily plugged as soon as this week. Their only quote from a so-called “Marine Biologist,” was, “The sky is not falling.”


Unfortunately, the rosy Monday articles were wrong, and their estimates on the breadth of the spill were embarrassingly low, based on faulty estimates fed to them from government agencies (see also: Iraq). Skytruth, for example, has found that initial official government and BP figures, widely quoted by the press, have been generated via ballpark estimate without proof. A NOAA Admiral is quoted, calling any estimation, “Impossible.”

Hate to break it to ya, Chicken Little, but the sky is falling. The proof can be found in the clouds of sludgy soot, bridging the ocean to the land. The proof can be found in the fact that the working environmental response plan, can be simplified as, “call us when you find dead stuff.” The proof can be found when even Al-Jazeera is sympathetic to this travesty. Just look at all the dead sea turtleswashing ashore.

The Reuters Factboxsince the spill, reads as a list of sequential failures, grand in scope and cost. The capping dome/containment system put in place days ago, has failed due to the buildup of ice-like Methane crystals / the inability to skirt the laws of physics. The rupture is more than five thousand feet below the surface of the sea, and must be accessed by these machines, as humans cannot survive at such depths.


As predicted, on GeoCurrents, last week, the slick hit the fragile Chandeleur Barrier Islands, home to the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. The Northeastern part of the slick has made its way towards the Mississippi delta. The next major milestone for the oil would be the gulf stream.

The title, worst-case-scenario, does not involve hyperbole on our part. The oil is as thick as crude comes, buried deep, and threatening the whole of the Gulf of Mexico. Until a relief well is dug (if even, possible, three months from now), the three main options to slowing the spill are: plugging the spill with a new smaller dome, cutting the pipe (which could actually increase flow), and plugging the hole with material with a “Junk Gun,” which sounds more like an item from Captain Nemo’s Nautiulus, than an effecive deterrent to what is quickly becoming the worst environmental disaster of all time.


While we can’t plug the spill from home, knowledge of the spill, is power, as always. To stay up on the true extent of the spill, here are some more of the latest tools for tracking the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Google Earth.

This GeoCurrentcast utilizes the most recent layovers available in the google earth community, combined with an original lecture, backed with the most recent Satellite Data and Imagery. The visible surface size of the slick, current flows, satellite images, and rupture sites are all marked in this file.

To view this file, open Google Earth and download this file. Then double click the video icon in Google Earth to play the tour. You can toggle the satellite imagery, overlays, and information in the Google Earth Browser on your own, outside of tour mode.

Finally, take the time to play with this web-module, which will compare the size of your own city, to the size of the oil well.

Below is a map of the spill’s forecasted trajectory through Wednesday, generated of by NOAA today (Sunday, 5/9):



A look at the above image, alongside our Google Earth Current flows, shows that within the next two weeks, the oil slick could get dangerously coast to catching a ride on the Gulf stream loop current.

So, while we await the sum totals of disaster, and are forced to burn crude a so thick and heavy and deep, not even hydrocarbon-starved microbes can decompose the oil. Instead, part of the procedure is to torch these now desolate grey-watered ocean wastelands.


Once the worst of the slick has burned off, diluted, and moved beyond the gulf, the United States will still be left swathes of unanswered questions on ecological recovery, liability(the BP FAQis a great source), social justice, and the future of Offshore Drilling in world energy policy. Hopefully this inexcusable tragedy can be used is utilized as a rallying point for change, otherwise it’s all for naught.

We’re sticking to the grim prediction at GeoCurrents.info that the Deepwater Horizon spill will be a record breaker in terms of total volume and dollars.

We are all guilty.

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth Read More »

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillustrated in Google Earth

The last few Geocurrentcasts have featured environmental disasters on a massive scale, and this week’s spill in the Gulf may top them all. If the fissure in the Ocean continues to spew anywhere near its current rate, and attempts to plug it have failed decidedly so far, the Deepwater Horizon spill is likely to become the largest oil spill in history.

Google Earth aficionados have been on the forefront, tracking and illustrating this disaster.
This week’s Geocurrentcast is a compilation of the work done this week in theGoogle Earth Forums, with a short lecture attached.

To view the Oil Spill, first download Google Earth, then download and open this KML file.

For those interested in tracking the official response and latest figures, use this website as a primary source.


The total damage is expected to be a number of billions monetarily, but the real loss comes in terms irreversible environmental damage. Not only is the Gulf thick with millions of gallons of sludge, but fires are being set to control the spill, leading to plumes of smoke on a scale previously unseen outside of the Gulf War (see also: Werner Herzog’sLessons in Darkness).

If you thought the originalGulf Dead Zone was getting lonely, just until the casualty estimates for this accident are finally tabulated. For example, don’t look for a jump in sea turtle populationsthis decade, or maybe ever again.

After the Exxon-Valdez Oil spill, less than 25% of the wildlife in the affected area survived. Still, the sting did not resonate with many worldwide, because of its relatively desolate Alaskan location. The Deepwater Horizon’s spill has hit the core of our country and has only just begun to menace fishing, agriculture, air traffic, and the environment.

Some have sprung into action for the cleanup, with a Philippine cleanup crew, starting a hair donation program soak up. Still, as they say, you can’t unfry an egg, so stock up on shrimp before its too late.

As the slick approaches the shore today, it begs the question, is this wake-up call the world needs to begin acting in earnest against the rape of our planet, or is it but another astounding milestone in the history of crimes against the planet?

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillustrated in Google Earth Read More »