Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NOAA tracking spilled Macondo oil and its consequences

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists are working throughout the Gulf of Mexico to assess where spilled Macondo oil has gone, where it might go, and to figure out the extent of any potential damages to the gulf ecosystem.

During a news conference on July 27, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said preliminary findings indicate the light crude has been biodegraded quickly by naturally occurring bacteria that is abundant in the warm-water gulf.

“We do know that over 600 miles of the gulf coast shoreline have already been oiled, and some [oil] remains on the surface although the amount on the surface is less and less,” Lubchenco said. “Recent satellite imagery indicates surface oil is continuing to break up into smaller scattered patches,” that are predominantly light sheens containing little recoverable oil.

NOAA scientists are studying short-term and long-term impacts. Four NOAA vessels, two aircraft, and five sea turtle rescue boats currently are busy with missions ranging from seafood safety to detecting submerged oil.

The NOAA ship Nancy Foster is using a remotely operated vehicle to monitor deep water bottom and coral habitats exposed to the oil dispersant mixture. The NOAA ship Oregon II is collecting samples of fish and shrimp off Louisiana that will be tested for contaminants.

A Twin Otter aircraft is using a multispectral scanner to measure surface oil density and thickness, and a second Twin Otter is providing aerial observations and surveys of dolphins, whales, and sea turtles in the area of the spill.

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