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sydneyst
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 Posted: Sun May 16th, 2010 12:20 pm

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Giant Oil Plumes Now Being Detected in Deep Water

 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/us/16oil.html


Jim Wilson/The New York Times Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited a wildlife treatment center in Louisiana on Saturday.

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

 
“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. “If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months,” she said Saturday. “That is alarming.”

The plumes were discovered by scientists from several universities working aboard the research vessel Pelican, which sailed from Cocodrie, La., on May 3 and has gathered extensive samples and information about the disaster in the gulf.
Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

Last edited on Sun May 16th, 2010 12:24 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat May 15th, 2010 02:27 pm

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Latest Weather Forecast for Gulf
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIAOFFNT4.shtml

3 to 5 ft Seas Over Most of the Gulf

Last edited on Sat May 15th, 2010 02:31 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Sat May 15th, 2010 02:15 pm

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Crisis in the Gulf: Where Were the Watchdogs?

http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/15/news/companies/BP_spill_regulators/



Red shades indicate concentration of oil patches and where government believes oil will be by Sunday. Gray line indicates margin of error.


May 15, 2010: 9:06 AM ETNEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- After a week grilling oil executives over what caused the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, lawmakers are setting their sights on government regulators next week.They'll be asking the watchdogs about just what kind of role they had in approving the ill-fated drilling operation, and why they weren't better prepared to deal with the disaster.

At least four hearings are scheduled, including a Senate appearance Monday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger. More hearings are slated for Tuesday with other members of the administration.

High on lawmakers' hit list is the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, the agency that issues permits for offshore drilling.

MMS issued the permits for the BP-contracted Deepwater Horizon drill rig, which exploded April 20 and subsequently sank, claiming 11 lives and leaving an uncapped oil well spewing into the Gulf.


Last edited on Sat May 15th, 2010 02:20 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Fri May 14th, 2010 12:30 pm

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Size of Oil Spill Underestimated, Scientists Say

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/us/14oil.html

Two weeks ago, the government put out a round estimate of the size of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico: 5,000 barrels a day. Repeated endlessly in news reports, it has become conventional wisdom. The criticism escalated on Thursday, a day after the release of a video that showed a huge black plume of oil gushing from the broken well at a seemingly high rate. BP has repeatedly claimed that measuring the plume would be impossible.

The figure of 5,000 barrels a day was hastily produced by government scientists in Seattle. It appears to have been calculated using a method that is specifically not recommended for major oil spills.

Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who is an expert in the analysis of oil slicks, said he had made his own rough calculations using satellite imagery. They suggested that the leak could “easily be four or five times” the government estimate, he said.

“The government has a responsibility to get good numbers,” Dr. MacDonald said. “If it’s beyond their technical capability, the whole world is ready to help them.”
Scientists said that the size of the spill was directly related to the amount of damage it would do in the ocean and onshore, and that calculating it accurately was important for that reason.

BP has repeatedly said that its highest priority is stopping the leak, not measuring it. “There’s just no way to measure it,” Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president, said in a recent briefing.

Yet for decades, specialists have used a technique that is almost tailor-made for the problem. With undersea gear that resembles the ultrasound machines in medical offices, they measure the flow rate from hot-water vents on the ocean floor. Scientists said that such equipment could be tuned to allow for accurate measurement of oil and gas flowing from the well.

Richard Camilli and Andy Bowen, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who have routinely made such measurements, spoke extensively to BP last week, Mr. Bowen said. They were poised to fly to the gulf to conduct volume measurements.

But they were contacted late in the week and told not to come, at around the time BP decided to lower a large metal container to try to capture the leak. That maneuver failed. They have not been invited again.

“The government and BP are calling the shots, so I will have to respect their judgment,” Dr. Camilli said.

BP did not respond Thursday to a question about why Dr. Camilli and Mr. Bowen were told to stand down. Speaking more broadly about the company’s policy on measuring the leak, a spokesman, David H. Nicholas, said in an e-mail message that “the estimated rate of flow would not affect either the direction or scale of our response, which is the largest in history.”

Dr. MacDonald and other scientists said the government agency that monitors the oceans, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had been slow to mount the research effort needed to analyze the leak and assess its effects. Sylvia Earle, a former chief scientist at NOAA and perhaps the country’s best-known oceanographer, said that she, too, was concerned by the pace of the scientific response.

But Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator, said in an interview on Thursday: “Our response has been instantaneous and sustained. We would like to have more assets. We would like to be doing more. We are throwing everything at it that we physically can.”

The issue of how fast the well is leaking has been murky from the beginning. For several days after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, the government and BP claimed that the well on the ocean floor was leaking about 1,000 barrels a day.

A small organization called SkyTruth, which uses satellite images to monitor environmental problems, published an estimate on April 27 suggesting that the flow rate had to be at least 5,000 barrels a day, and probably several times that.
The following day, the government — over public objections from BP — raised its estimate to 5,000 barrels a day. A barrel is 42 gallons, so the estimate works out to 210,000 gallons per day.

BP later acknowledged to Congress that the worst case, if the leak accelerated, would be 60,000 barrels a day, a flow rate that would dump a plume the size of the Exxon Valdez spill into the gulf every four days. BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil.

The 5,000-barrel-a-day estimate was produced in Seattle by a NOAA unit that responds to oil spills. It was calculated with a protocol known as the Bonn convention that calls for measuring the extent of an oil spill, using its color to judge the thickness of oil atop the water, and then multiplying.

However, Alun Lewis, a British oil-spill consultant who is an authority on the Bonn convention, said the method was specifically not recommended for analyzing large spills like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, since the thickness was too difficult to judge in such a case.

Even when used for smaller spills, he said, correct application of the technique would never produce a single point estimate, like the government’s figure of 5,000 barrels a day, but rather a range that would likely be quite wide.

NOAA declined to supply detailed information on the mathematics behind the estimate, nor would it address the points raised by Mr. Lewis.


Last edited on Fri May 14th, 2010 12:40 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu May 13th, 2010 07:11 pm

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Marine Habitat Sanctuaries Near the Spill

http://gulfseagrant.tamu.edu/oilspill/pdfs/horizon_spill_mpas_5-4-2010.pdf

visit website for enlarged and more readable map

Attached Image (viewed 958 times):

marineprotectedareasgulf1200.jpg

Last edited on Thu May 13th, 2010 07:12 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed May 12th, 2010 07:54 pm

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Sea Turtles in Gulf of Mexico


Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found in the Gulf of Mexico: green, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback, and Kemp’s ridley. All five species have been documented nesting on Padre Island National Seashore either historically or recently, but the majority of the nesting records are of the Kemp’s ridley. These magnificent marine animals, once abundant in the oceans, have declined during the last
century.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle


The Kemp’s ridley, Lepidochelys kempii, is the smallest of the fi ve sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the most endangered sea turtle worldwide. The average length of a Kemp’s ridley is 23 to 27 in. (58.5 to 70 cm) and an average weight of 100 lbs. (45 kg). This is the only species of sea turtle with an almost circular upper shell. Adults are olive green in color above and pale yellow below.  The Kemp’s ridley’s range is chiefl y in the Gulf of Mexico, but they can be found along the Atlantic coast as far north as New England and Nova Scotia. The primary nesting ground is a
16-mile stretch of beach at Playa de Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Leatherback

The leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea, is the largest species of sea turtle and the largest reptile in the world. An adult leatherback can reach up to 2000 lbs. (907 kg) and nine feet (275 cm) in length. They are black in color with pinkish white mottled areas on their shells. The shell of the leatherback is not a hard bony
shell, like that of other sea turtles, instead it is made of leathery, oil-saturated connective tissue loosely overlaying on interlocking dermal bones.

In one day, a leatherback can eat its weight in jellies. Leatherbacks have a special adaptation that allows them to change their body temperature and dive into deeper, colder water than other sea turtles. This species is the most migratory and widespread of all the sea turtles and can be found nesting in the
tropical beaches of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian


Last edited on Wed May 12th, 2010 07:59 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed May 12th, 2010 07:44 pm

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Why Wetlands Are Such a Concern: Role in Gulf Ecosystem

Shorelines and Coastal Habitats in the Gulf of Mexico

FACT SHEET

Shorelines and coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico coastal areas have more than half of the coastal wetlands within the lower 48 states; Louisiana alone has approximately 40 percent of the total.


Although coastal areas are vital for fish species and protection of human life and property ashore, the Gulf of Mexico has been losing coastal land at a
very high rate over the last 50 years. ...

The effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal erosion will be determined by how much oil reaches these habitats, and how long it stays there. A lot of oil resting on vegetated coastal shorelines could cause the vegetation to become stressed and die; this could cause the roots to die, weakening marsh soils. Weakened marsh soils would then be at risk of accelerated erosion from waves and storms.

Habitat in the Gulf of Mexico

97% (by weight) of the commercial fish and shellfish landings from the Gulf of Mexico are species that depend on estuaries and their wetlands at some point in their life cycle. Landings from the coastal zone in Louisiana alone make up nearly one-third (by weight) of the fish harvested in the entire continental United States.

In such an incredibly productive area, important habitat in the Gulf covers nearly every part of the ecosystem. Some examples include the open water column, floating sargassum mats, deep-sea soft corals, hard coral reefs, rocky hard-bottom substrates, ledges and caves, limestone outcroppings, artificial reefs, mangroves, sandy bottom, muddy bottom, marshes, submerged aquatic vegetation, bays, lagoons and even the sandy beach, which turtles use for laying eggs.  In federal waters, species that use the surface would be most impacted by the early stages of the oil spill.

As the crude oil sinks, the bottom-oriented fish community may be impacted.
In general, the 42 reef fish species managed in the Gulf of Mexico are often found in bottom areas with high relief, such as coral reefs, artificial reefs, and rocky hard-bottom surfaces. These areas are usually deeper than 100 meters. As long as the oil spill remains on the surface and offshore, the impacts to reef fish habitat should be minor. However, if the oil slick reaches the bottom or nearshore/inshore areas, the 2 majority of the reef fish species could be impacted. However, some reef fish spawn in spring, and their eggs and larvae are usually planktonic, carried by currents rather than through their own control. These larvae would not be able to avoid or escape the oil if currents brought them together. Sargassum mats are
nursery habitat for some species, including gray triggerfish and amberjacks. Sargassum mats that intersect the oil could impact these species.

In state waters, all coastal species could be impacted if the oil spill reaches nearshore waters. In addition, shrimp larvae usually spend the early months of their life in inshore waters before migrating toward the ocean. Brown shrimp postlarvae migrate from February to April, and white shrimp being their migration from May through November. During spring and summer months, several Gulf shark species use coastal habitats as nursery areas, so if oil reaches coastal areas they use, they would be affected.

How oil affects habitats and species

Dispersed and dissolved oil (comprised of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs)) in the water can result in exposure of aquatic resources to the toxicological effects of PAHs. This contact in the water column may be exacerbated by use of surfactants, weather conditions and other dispersal methods which increase mixing.

PAHs can cause direct toxicity (mortality) to marine mammals, fish, and aquatic invertebrates through smothering and other physical and chemical mechanisms. Besides direct mortality, PAHs can also cause sublethal effects such as: DNA damage, liver disease, cancer, and reproductive, developmental, and immune system impairment in fish and other organisms. PAHs can accumulate in invertebrates, which
may be unable to efficiently metabolize the compounds. PAHs can then be passed to higher trophic levels, such as fish and marine mammals, when they consume prey.
The presence of discharged oil in the environment may cause decreased habitat use in the area, altered migration patterns, altered food availability, and disrupted life cycles.

During past oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA has documented direct toxic impacts to commercially important aquatic fauna, including blue crabs, squid, shrimp and different finfish species.

Last edited on Sat May 15th, 2010 02:22 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Wed May 12th, 2010 07:20 pm

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Mangrove Swamps at Risk from Spill: Nursery for
 Marine Life




Four species of tropical mangroves can be found around the Gulf of Mexico. Their extensive root systems protect the coast from erosion and storm damage. The mangrove here (inset) is a red mangrove.


Mangrove swamps are coastal wetlands found in tropical and subtropical regions. They are characterized by halophytic (salt loving) trees, shrubs and other plants growing in brackish to saline tidal waters. These wetlands are often found in estuaries, where fresh water meets salt water and are infamous for their impenetrable maze of woody vegetation. In North America, they are found from the southern tip of Florida along the Gulf Coast to Texas. Florida's southwest coast supports one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world.



Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) is the most common mangrove in the United States outside of the everglades. The straw-like spikes surrounding this plant are pneumatophores.
Mangrove trees dominate this wetland ecosystem due to their ability to survive in both salt and fresh water. In the continental United States, only three species of mangrove grow: red, black, and white mangroves.

Red Mangrove (Rhizophera mangle) is easily recognized by its distinctive arching roots. Black Mangrove (Avicennia sp.), which often grows more inland, has root projections called pneumatophores, which help to supply the plant with air in submerged soils. White Mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) often grow even farther inland with no outstanding root structures.

A wide diversity of animals is found in mangrove swamps. Since these estuarine swamps are constantly replenished with nutrients transported by fresh water runoff from the land and flushed by the ebb and flow of the tides, they support a bursting population of bacteria and other decomposers and filter feeders. These ecosystems sustain billions of worms, protozoa, barnacles (Balanus spp.), oysters (Crassostrea spp.), and other invertebrates. These organisms in turn feed fish and shrimp, which support wading birds, pelicans, and the endangered Crocodile.



The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), now common, was hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century for its fine feathers which were used to adorn hats.


Functions & Values

The importance of mangrove swamps has been well established. They function as nurseries for shrimp and recreational fisheries, exporters of organic matter to adjacent coastal food chains, and enormous sources of valuable nutrients. Their physical stability helps to prevent shoreline erosion, shielding inland areas from severe damage during hurricanes and tidal waves.

Status

As these wetlands are increasingly threatened by the damming of upstream sources, significant decline in their integrity and productivity has been observed. Mangrove swamps have experienced loss of 3.2 percent since the 1950s. However, efforts are underway to enhance the protection of these valuable ecosystems.

Last edited on Sat May 15th, 2010 02:24 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 11:19 pm

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Hurricane Season Begins May 15 in Atlantic and Gulf

Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th.

Attached Image (viewed 959 times):

hurricanesgulf2009smaller.jpg

Last edited on Tue May 11th, 2010 11:32 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 11:09 pm

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Story of the Ixtoc I Blowout in the Gulf
http://www.incidentnews.gov/incident/6250

IXTOC I Bahia de Campeche, Mexico 
1979-Jun-03 On June 3, 1979, the 2 mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The IXTOC I was being drilled by the SEDCO 135, a semi-submersible platform on lease to Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). A loss of drilling mud circulation caused the blowout to occur. The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire.

Estimates of the amount of oil spilled range from 3 million barrels to 5 million barrels .
The oil that was extruded by the IXTOC I was carried by Gulf currents into American waters on August 6, 1979 . The U .S . was given two months to prepare for the oil slick and mounted a planned effort to protect the Texas coast against the effects
of the IXTOC I accident .

The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout. PEMEX hired blowout control experts and other spill control experts including Red Adair, Martech International of Houston, and the Mexican diving company, Daivaz. The Martech response included 50 personnel on site, the remotely operated vehicle TREC, and the submersible Pioneer I.

 The TREC attempted to find a safe approach to the Blowout Preventer (BOP). The approach was complicated by poor visibility and debris on the seafloor including derrick wreckage and 3000 meters of drilling pipe. Divers were eventually able to reach and activate the BOP, but the pressure of the oil and gas caused the valves to begin rupturing. The BOP was reopened to prevent destroying it.

Two relief wells were drilled to relieve pressure from the well to allow response personnel to cap it. Norwegian experts were contracted to bring in skimming equipment and containment booms, and to begin cleanup of the spilled oil. The IXTOC I well continued to spill oil at a rate of 10,000 - 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980. Keyword: Boom, Corexit 9527, skimmer, manual removal, volunteers, blowout, fire, evaporation, blowout preventer, relief well, submersible..

View map
Note: Documents are posted chronologically and early reports likely contain factual errors. These errors may be corrected in a later report.

Incident Response Documents USCG Case History 1979-Jun-03 Behavior of Oil 1979-Jun-03 USCG Case History 1979-Jun-03 References 1979-Jun-03 Countermeasures/ Mitigation 1979-Jun-03 Other Special Interest 1979-Jun-03 Other Special Interest Issues 1979-Jun-03 Shoreline Types Impacted 1979-Jun-03 Incident Details Products of concern: IXTOC I crude oil

Latitude (approximate): 19° 24.50' North Longitude (approximate): 92° 19.50' West
Counter measures: Dispersants: Evaluated and applied In-Situ Burn: Evaluated and applied Bioremediation: Not applicable Photos and Maps



IXTOC I - Impacted shoreline, south Texas 


IXTOC I - aerial view of wellhead  IXTOC I well blowout

Last edited on Thu May 13th, 2010 06:42 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 11:04 pm

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Oil Spill May Approach Texas Early Next Week

http://www.weatherunderground.com
11 May

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has pushed steadily westward along the Louisiana coast, and is expected to reach central Louisiana near Atchafalaya Bay by Thursday, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. Winds over the Gulf of Mexico this week will blow from the southeast at 15 - 20 knots, threatening to bring oil to large portions of the Louisiana coast.

The Mississippi and Alabama coasts will also be at risk, but the risk to the Florida Panhandle is lower. It appears quite unlikely that oil will get into the Loop Current anytime over the next two weeks, and spread to the Florida Keys and beyond. However, the strong southeast winds are expected to shift more easterly late this week, and drive a westward-moving ocean surface current with a speed of 1 - 2 mph along the west coast of Louisiana late this week (Figure 2).

This current may be capable of transporting oil all the way to the Louisiana/Texas border by Monday. However, the concentrations of oil in the water will be much less than what is present close to the blowout, and it is unclear what the potential danger is for the western Louisiana and eastern Texas coasts. The greatest danger is to the Eastern Louisiana coast.


Figure 2. Surface ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, May 14, at 8pm EDT as forecast by the 8pm EDT run of the NOAA HYCOM model at 8pm EDT on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Note that a strong ocean current near 1 m/s (about 2 mph) is forecast to set up along the Western Louisiana coast, which could take oil close to the Texas offshore waters by Monday. Image credit: NOAA RTOFS.


Jeff Masters

Last edited on Tue May 11th, 2010 11:14 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 10:57 pm

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Latest Weather Service Forecasts for the Gulf of Mexico


http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Gulf of Mexico Offshore Waters Forecast

Comments Requested:  Proposed Changes to Offshore Waters Forecasts S FORECAST FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
430 PM CDT TUE MAY 11 2010
 
OFFSHORE WATERS FORECAST FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
 
SEAS GIVEN AS SIGNIFICANT WAVE HEIGHT...WHICH IS THE AVERAGE
HEIGHT OF THE HIGHEST 1/3 OF THE WAVES. INDIVIDUAL WAVES MAY BE
MORE THAN TWICE THE SIGNIFICANT WAVE HEIGHT.
 
GMZ089-120330-
SYNOPSIS FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
430 PM CDT TUE MAY 11 2010
 
.SYNOPSIS...THE COMBINATION OF HIGH PRES ALONG THE ATLANTIC
SEABOARD AND STRONG LOW PRES OVER THE SOUTHERN PLAINS IS
PRODUCING A TIGHT PRES GRADIENT OVER ALL BUT THE NE GULF AND
RESULTING IN MODERATE TO FRESH RETURN FLOW ACROSS THE ENTIRE
BASIN. THIS PATTERN WILL GENERALLY PERSIST THROUGH THU NIGHT
BEFORE WINDS BEFORE A WEAKENED HIGH PRES RIDGE BUILDS W ALONG
THE NE GULF...RESULTING IN GRADUALLY DIMINISHING EASTERLY WINDS


This product is updated at approximately 2 AM, 8 AM, 2 PM, and 8 PM EDT from June 1 to November 30. Special outlooks may be issued as conditions warrant.
[code]

Last edited on Wed May 12th, 2010 07:25 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 06:11 am

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BP to Try Smaller Dome Against Oil Leak


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-oil-spill-20100511,0,645089.story

Two Senate committees will start hearings on the gulf disaster as the oil company moves to Plan B.



An engineer with pollution containment materials at the Martin Terminal work site May 3 in Port Fourchon, La. (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

Reporting from Washington and Los Angeles as they prepared to deal with political fallout on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, BP and its contractors scrambled Monday to develop fresh ways to battle the undersea geyser that has pumped about 4 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest proposed fix, dubbed a "top hat," is a smaller version of the 100-ton dome that failed over the weekend when hot gas from the well and cold sea water formed slushy hydrate crystals that gummed up the works.

The smaller dimensions of the new steel box, which weighs 2 tons and could be in place within 72 hours, will allow heat from the spurting oil to build up in the interior much more quickly, the company said, preventing hydrates from forming and allowing the oil, water and gas mixture to more easily flow up a pipe to a waiting ship.


David Valentine, a geochemist at UC Santa Barbara who has studied the formation of hydrates in deep ocean water, said the smaller dome should solve the temperature problem. But he expressed concern that the "top hat" might not be heavy enough to offset the buoyant effects of the captured gas. "Two tons seems a bit light to me," he said in an e-mail.

BP also is working on two other fronts to stop the gusher. In one, known as a "hot tap," a hole is drilled in another part of the pipe and a connector is constructed to draw out the oil. Another option is to stop the source of the flow at the wellhead with a "junk shot" — forcing heavy materials into the broken apparatus to stop it up like a clogged toilet.

The leading edge of the oil slick appeared to be less than 10 miles from some parts of the southern Louisiana coast Monday, and southeasterly winds this week could push some oil onshore in remote areas Tuesday, forecasters said.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, at the incident command center in Mobile, Ala., said 24 national wildlife refuges and seven national park units could be affected by the spill. About 15 oiled birds have been treated so far.

The White House disclosed on Monday that it has lent Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist, to the BP effort to restart the failed blowout preventer in the crippled Deepwater Horizon rig.

Chu, a former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has dispatched a team of senior officials from national labs to BP's operations center in Houston. For the last 10 days, the team has worked with the aid of national laboratory supercomputers to figure out what is wrong with the blowout preventer, which should cut off oil flow in the event of an accident.

The oil spill will be center stage on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as industry officials face what is likely to be tough questioning from the Senate's energy and environment committees.

Meanwhile, in Kenner, La., the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling in federal waters, are launching two days of hearings into the cause and environmental effects of the leak.

The energy committee, headed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), is considered industry-friendly. Even in the face of potential devastation to her state, committee member Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) has cautioned against overreaction.

The scene is likely to be different at the environment committee hearing, chaired by California Democrat Barbara Boxer. Boxer, in the midst of a tough reelection campaign, has often been at odds with the industry and has pushed for cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels.

The hearings are just the beginning for Congress as it cranks up its oversight machinery. No fewer than seven congressional panels are conducting investigations.

One goal is to determine what kind of legislation is necessary to prevent future spills, and among those mentioned would be raising industry liability for spills and reinstituting a ban on new offshore drilling.

Some finger-pointing appears likely. Steven Newman, chief executive of Transocean Ltd., which owned and operated the rig and performed the drilling under contract with BP, said in written testimony that the focus should look beyond the failure of the supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer to "why a cased and cemented wellbore suddenly and catastrophically failed."

Tim Probert, president of Halliburton's global business lines, which did the cementing, said in his testimony that the company was confident that its cementing work was completed "in accordance with the requirements of the well owner's well construction plan."

So far, BP says it has spent $350 million battling the spill, including $3.5 million to pay 295 of 4,700 claims it has received for economic damages. The company is required to cover economic damages up to $75 million, but legislation has been introduced to raise that cap to $10 billion.

Times staff writers Julie Cart in Kenner, La., Scott Kraft and Margot Roosevelt in Los Angeles and Jim Tankersley in the Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

Last edited on Tue May 11th, 2010 06:14 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 06:03 am

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Oil Spill Swells to 4M Gallons; Fixes Days Off Yet


http://kai03.qwest.com/WindowsLive/Media/News/NewsDetail.aspx?cat=Business&id=D9FKDL7O0@news.ap.org&client=gadget&qid=7178532169D71104EE1365B9FFFFFFFF

May 10, 2010 (11:18p CDT)
By HARRY R. WEBER and JOHN CURRAN (Associated Press Writers)

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO -  Black Hawk helicopters peppered Louisiana's barrier islands with 1-ton sacks of sand Monday to bolster the state's crucial wetlands against the epic Gulf of Mexico oil spill - 4 million gallons and growing.

At the site of the ruptured well a mile underwater, a remote-controlled submarine shot chemicals into the maw of the massive leak to dilute the flow, further evidence that BP expects the gusher to keep erupting into the Gulf for weeks or more.

Crews using the deep-sea robot attempted to thin the oil - which is rushing up from the seabed at a pace of about 210,000 gallons per day - after getting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, BP PLC officials said.

Two previous tests were done to determine the potential impact on the environment, and the third round of spraying was to last into early Tuesday.

The EPA said the effects of the chemicals were still widely unknown.

BP engineers were casting about after an icelike buildup thwarted their plan to siphon off most of the leak using a 100-ton containment box. They pushed ahead with other potential short-term solutions, including using a smaller box and injecting the leak with junk such as golf balls and pieces of tire to plug it. If it works, the well will be filled with mud and cement and abandoned.

"This is the largest, most comprehensive spill response mounted in the history of the United States and the oil and gas industry," BP chief executive Tony Hayward said in Houston.

None of those methods has been attempted so deep. Workers were simultaneously drilling a relief well, the solution considered most permanent, but that was expected to take up to three months.

At least 4 million gallons were believed to have leaked since an April 20 drilling rig blast killed 11. If the gusher continues unabated, it would surpass the Exxon Valdez disaster as the nation's worst spill by Father's Day. About 11 million gallons leaked in Alaska's Prince William Sound from the tanker in 1989.

The new containment device is much smaller, about 4 feet in diameter, 5 feet tall and weighing just under 2 tons, said Doug Suttles, BP PLC chief operating officer. Unlike the bigger box, it will be connected to a drill ship on the surface by a pipe-within-a-pipe when it's lowered, which will allow crews to pump heated water and methanol immediately to prevent the ice buildup.

In Grand Isle, at the tip of the Louisiana boot, a small army of heavy machinery - civilian and military dump trucks, Army jeeps and Hummers, front-end loaders and backhoes - scurried to fortify a breached section of beach. National Guard helicopters had dropped sandbags on the breach, and later piles of dirt were being pushed together to make a dam, keeping oil from reaching the marshes.

As the sandbags plopped in place, workers farther inland used pumps and other structures to divert fresh water from the Mississippi River into the marshlands, hoping it would help push back the oily salt water lapping at the coast. The floodworks had been installed to help rebuild Louisiana's shrinking wetlands by injecting sediment-rich water from the river.

"We're trying to save thousands of acres of marsh here in this area, where the shrimp lay their eggs, where the fin fish lay their eggs, where the crabs come in and out," said Chett Chiasson, executive director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission. "We're trying to save a heritage, a way of life, a culture that we know here in recreational and commercial fishing."

BP - which is responsible for the cleanup - said the spill has cost it $350 million so far for immediate response, containment efforts, commitments to the Gulf Coast states, and settlements and federal costs. The company did not speculate on the final bill, which most analysts expect to run into tens of billions of dollars.

Above the oil leak, waves of dark brown and black sludge crashed into the support ship Joe Griffin. The fumes there were so intense that a crew member and an AP photographer on board had to wear respirators while on deck.

Oil - be it a surface sheen, globules or balls of tar - has washed up west of the Mississippi River and as far east as Dauphin Island, three miles off the Alabama mainland at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

The blowout aboard the rig, which was being leased by BP, was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding, according to interviews with rig workers conducted during BP's initial, internal probe. The exact cause remains under investigation.


Last edited on Tue May 11th, 2010 06:09 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Fri May 7th, 2010 08:56 am

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Envisat Monitors Oil Spill Proximity to Loop Current

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM4ABKPO8G_index_0.htmlhttp:

  May 5, 2010) — As fears grow that the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico could soon catch the oil slick and drag it south towards coral reefs in the Florida Keys, scientists are monitoring the situation closely with ESA's Envisat radar data.

By combining surface roughness and current flow information with Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) data of the spill, SAR image analysts are able to detect the direction in which the spill boundaries can drift.  In these two ASAR images for 29 April and 2 May, advanced processing methods have been performed to display ocean surface roughness variations and Doppler-derived ocean surface radial velocities. Merging this information provides insight into the spatial structure of the spill and its dispersion by the upper ocean turbulent flow.

In the 29 April image, smooth surfaces appear as black patches inside the oil spill and in the very low wind region east of the spill, where the flow analysis is not possible.

As visible in both images, the spill still appears relatively confined around its point of origin and is still north of the Loop Current, a powerful conveyor belt that circulates clockwise around the Gulf toward Florida before being joining the powerful Gulf Stream.

An intriguing shape is detected in the 2 May image that seems to follow passively the flow derived from the Doppler measurements.

The fear is that winds could push the oil slick south until it joins the Loop Current, which would carry the oil towards Florida. If that were to happen, the oil could flow into the Gulf Stream and be carried up to the US East Coast.

"As observed, this does not seem to be the case at the moment as no connection between the spill and the intense current presently occurs," said Dr Bertrand Chapron of IFREMER, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea. "Thanks to systematic Envisat ASAR planning over this area, close monitoring of the situation is ensured as long as there is some wind to contrast the surface roughness."

Dr Chapron and Dr Fabrice Collard of France's CLS (formerly the BOOST Technologies Company) created these products using ASAR in Wide Swath mode. They have been working with radar data for many years and have developed sets of algorithms that allow ASAR data to be processed in near-real time and to produce state-of-the-art ocean parameters. These are made widely available on the SOPRANO ocean products demonstration website developed with ESA.

"The upcoming Sentinel-1 SAR instrument will have an enhanced capability to capture the surface flow information on top of the higher resolution sea surface roughness," Dr Chapron explained. "As demonstrated, these combined products are very promising for strengthening the use of SAR data to help fight oil-spill consequences on coastal zones."

Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite system. The first Sentinel-1 satellite is planned for launch at the end 2012 and will ensure the continuity of SAR data. The second Sentinel-1 satellite is planned for launch in 2014. The fleet of Sentinel satellites is being developed by ESA within the EU's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative.


Attached Image (viewed 774 times):

loopcurrentsciencedaily.jpg

Last edited on Fri May 7th, 2010 09:18 am by sydneyst


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