A decade ago, the Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deepwater, dynamically positioned, semi-submersible offshore drilling rig owned by Transocean, carved a bad name for itself when it leaked tremendous amounts of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, ten years after the unfortunate event, new computer simulations are suggesting that the toxic pollution from the rig extended much farther than what was initially thought of.
Deepwater Oil Leak
Taken after the spill that leaked over 800 million liters of oil into the waters of the Gulf and affecting marine life, the images helped scientists determine which parts of the gulf would be temporarily closed from fishing. Now, however, new observations show that a decade after, the oil has managed to spread much farther.
This new analysis is confirmed by computer simulations, which used a host of factors to accurately map the spill’s true expanse. Such factors include ocean currents and oil evaporation, which then revealed that at least 30 percent of the hazardous pollution had been unfortunately overlooked by previous satellite imagery.
According to biological oceanographer Claire Paris-Limouzy of the University of Miami and colleagues, these new simulations uncovered vast ocean swaths where oil concentrations were high enough to endanger marine life, but thin and diluted enough to actually get overlooked by satellites. The findings of the team were published Wednesday in Science Advances, with both water and sediment samples from the gulf supporting their research findings.
Per the new simulations, lower oil concentrations that weren’t visible to satellites managed to creep past the boundaries of the fishery enclosures despite initial satellite imagery showing that oil concentrations were mostly at the northern and central patch of the Gulf.
Furthermore, fishery closures covered about 94 percent of the polluted region observed by satellites, while only about 70 percent of the hazardous were identified by the new analysis made by the computer simulations. Per analysis, some of these waters remained closed to fishing for years.
Because oil doesn’t mix with water, it harms marine wildlife since it blocks the sun that is needed by fish and plants to live and function.