Gulf oil spill: real disaster might be lurking beneath the surface

Sunday, May 16, 2010
By Paul Martin

New research suggests that huge plumes of oil might be spread at all levels of the water column, showing how much scientists don’t yet know about the complex Gulf oil spill.

By Mark Sappenfield
CSMonitor.com
May 16, 2010

From the first moments that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank last month, it has been apparent that the blooming Gulf oil spill has been an oil disaster unlike any other. But the full truth of that statement is perhaps only now beginning to become apparent.

The oil that can be seen from the surface is apparently just a fraction of the oil that has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, according to an assessment the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology. Significant amounts of oil are spreading at various levels throughout the water column, says the report, which was posted online a week ago but first published by The New York Times Saturday.

The research, combined with other emerging data, could fundamentally alter researchers’ understanding of the oil spill. It suggests that vastly more oil than previously reported could be spilling from the wellhead and the attached riser pipe that now lies crumpled on the seafloor like a kinked and leaking garden hose.

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