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Oil Spreading Throughout the Gulf of Mexico, USA – May 17th, 2010 – UPDATE

29.0N 88.7W

May 17th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Spread of Oil in Gulf of Mexico from April 26th to May 18th, 2010

Spread of Oil in Gulf of Mexico from April 26th to May 18th, 2010

Oil Spill seen from ISS - May 4th, 2010 - © NASA

Oil Spill seen from ISS - May 4th, 2010 - © NASA

The series of ASAR images in this animation show the spread of oil, originating from a deepwater oil well 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below the ocean surface, in the Gulf of Mexico over the last three weeks. The spill is threatening to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez leak off Alaska as the United States’ worst environmental disaster.

The oil spill began with an explosion and fire on April 20th and has been releasing between 5,000 to 100,000 barrels (210,000–4,200,000 US gallons; 790,000–16,000,000 litres) of crude oil per day, although the exact rate is part of an ongoing debate.

The resulting oil slick covers a surface area of at least 2,500 square miles (6,500 km2) according to estimates reported on May 3, 2010, with the exact size and location of the slick fluctuating from day to day depending on weather conditions, as one can observe from the animated imagery.

In addition, on May 15 researchers announced the discovery of immense underwater plumes of oil not visible from the surface, one of which is 10 miles (16km) long and a mile wide. Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said they had detected the slicks lurking just beneath the surface of the sea and at depths of 4,000ft (1,200m).

The US has said the success of a move by oil giant BP to curb a leak in the Gulf of Mexico is “not clear” and the technique provides “no solution”, in response to BP’s move to siphon oil from the leaking well head to a tanker on the surface.

This was the third attempt it had made to insert a long narrow tube into the leaking pipe, using underwater robots. It is thought that BP’s 6in-wide (15cm) tube and stopper could capture more than three-quarters of the leak, although a smaller spill nearby also has to be contained.

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