Alarming news about the size and characteristics of the underwater oil, according to front page story in the Wall St. Journal. Study Says Gulf Oil Spill Caused Manhattan-Size Plume
At the height of the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil escaping from the damaged well was trapped underwater in a drifting plume of hydrocarbons the size of Manhattan and helped turn the Gulf of Mexico into a test-tube of experimental petroleum chemistry, scientists who probed the submerged spill region said Thursday.
Their new findings add to evidence from several other independent research groups this week that the offshore spill—the largest in history—is confounding expectations about the behavior of oil and water.
According to the AP, Major study proves oil plume that’s not going away. August 19.
A 22-mile-long invisible mist of oil is meandering far below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, where it will probably loiter for months or more…. The most worrisome part is the slow pace at which the oil is breaking down in the cold, 40-degree water, making it a long-lasting but unseen threat to vulnerable marine life, experts said.
See the full text of the study at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s website.
Scientists Dispute Government Stance on the Lingering Effects of Gulf Oil. ProPublica, August 17, 2010.
…scientists seemed, on the whole, rather skeptical when a government report said most of the oil from BP’s well was gone from the Gulf of Mexico.  Now the pushback against the government’s stance has grown, with several scientific reports released this week.
Restoring the Gulf. editorial in NY Times, August 18. Note: this author commented more than a month ago on this blog that the job Mr. Mabus was assigned is not a part-time position.
The issue of the sharing of scientific findings is discussed in the July 27 in a Washington Post opinion piece titled Research on gulf oil spill shouldn’t take a backseat to litigation. Plus the article raises a new topic, that of the need for a comprehensive and strategic look at the research needed for such a major disaster event; I would argue both hard science and social science research should be included in such a comprehensive plan.
Our nation needs a comprehensive science plan to learn from and respond better to this tragedy. Those working in academia, federal and state government, nongovernmental organizations, and industry need to be consulted and included. The federal government must also make funding available, apart from the NRDA process, to enable independent, peer-reviewed science to be undertaken.
Also related to the topic is a recent statement by the American Assoc. of University Professors regard BP’s impact on academic freedom following the Gulf oil spill. See attached file titled ACADEMIC FREEDOM. One quote from that statement follows:
Perhaps this is the time to reexamine the increasing role corporations are playing in funding and controlling university research. Universities should work with faculty to set ethical standards for industry collaboration that champion the public interest and discourage faculty members from selling their freedom of speech and research to the highest bidder.
Thanks to Bill Cumming for bringing this statement to my attention. It is a timely addition to the topic discussed in today’s post.
CNN has posted an interesting summary of the effects, on the 100 day anniversary of the spill. See this article. And CNN also has posted some dramatic graphics of the spill since day 1.
Segmant of a post by Bill Cumming on his blog (7/11) federal management of the Oill spill disaster:
We are now witnessing …the totally inadequate response offered under the National Contingency Plan wherein with the US Coast Guard as Incident Commander it is now increasing faced with issues of on-shore impacts of the BP catastrophe including economic impacts and social and psychological impacts. The NCP is totally inadequate for these concerns and …has already demonstrated that fact as the Administration relies on a BP fund that will really only be fully implemented by the end of 2013 to fund damage and loss claims arising from their negligence. Yet both the Administration and Congress are betting their will be a BP around and that organizations other than FEMA can gear up for this largest environmental disaster in world history other than drought and that reliance is totally appropriate and adquate. I respectfully disagree.
The Gulf Oil Disaster: Three Steps to Federal Leadership; 3 pp. Commentary from the GWU Homeland Security Policy Institute, July 7, 2010. The authors argue for the involvement of DHS and the use of the National Response Framework.
See the Hazards Observer, July 2010, for new article titled The Long, Long Road from Exxon Valdez to Deepwater Horizon; pp. 7-10. This thoughtful article makes many useful points about the similarities and differences of the two events; I suggest you read it all. One quote worth remembering:
The overarching lesson we can share from our Exxon Valdez research is that the potential for negative, long-term community impacts must not be underestimated.”
Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Beg For A Chance To Take Basic Measurements, Huffington Post, July 7.
A group of independent scientists, frustrated and dumbfounded by the continued lack of the most basic data about the 77-day-old BP oil disaster, has put together a crash project intended to definitively measure how much oil has spilled and where and how it is spreading throughout the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.