Gulf Oil Slick Dwarfs Response Vessels

Detail from SkyTruth image showing response vessels and Gulf oil slick on April 25.

We just got a detailed ALI satellite image from NASA that was shot two days ago, on April 25, when the oil slick was about 817 square miles in size (it has since more than doubled to at least 1,800 square miles). You can see several response vessels working at the periphery of the slick. The magnitude of the job they have to do is plain to see.

See more in our growing image gallery for this incident.

Gulf Oil Spill Covers 817 Square Miles

NASA/MODIS satellite image taken April 25 showing oil slicks from Deepwater Horizon disaster.

SkyTruth just processed a NASA/MODIS satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico that was taken early yesterday afternoon (April 25). Slicks and sheen (very thin slick) covers about 817 square miles, and reaches 50 miles away from the assumed point of origin (the site of the leaking well on the seafloor). We’ve posted this in our image gallery for this incident. We’ve also shown the last two positions of the rig that we were able to detect before it sank, as seen on NASA images from April 21 (also in our gallery).

UPDATE 4/27/10 1pm – We’ve added a very detailed image to our gallery, also taken on April 25, from NASA’s Advanced Land Imager (ALI) sensor carried on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. You can see response vessels, and gradations in the thickness of the slick and peripheral sheen. Meanwhile, the spill continues unabated, and the size of the oil slick has more than doubled since these NASA images were taken just two days ago. We hope to get new images soon.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Getting Worse

Yesterday the Coast Guard reported that the damaged well on the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico is leaking oil again, at a rate estimated to be 42,000 gallons (1,000 barrels) per day. This is bad news – it means the blowout preventer on that well is not doing its job, and that several attempts by BP, Transocean and the Coast Guard to operate a shutoff valve on the well using a robotic ROV have failed. The oil slick has grown rapidly and now covers 400 square miles.

Oil slick in the Gulf now covers 400 square miles. AP photo by Gerald Herbert, courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

If the blowout and spill off Australia last year offer any lessons, it could be months before this well can be brought under control and the spill really and truly stopped. This is already a “major” oil spill by Coast Guard definition (>100,000 gallons), and a human tragedy. Economic losses include the $600-700 million dollar Deepwater Horizon drill rig, and as-yet untold millions in response and cleanup costs (and lawsuits from the people who have been hurt). But this blowout and spill in the Gulf now threaten to become truly catastrophic.

The NASA satellite imagery we used to track that Australia spill have been unavailable since Friday. As soon as we can get anything we’ll do our best to get it posted here.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – Technology Fails

Oil slicks surround the burning Deepwater Horizon drill rig on April 21. AP photo by Gerald Herbert, courtesy Christian Science Monitor.


Oil slicks and sheen over the site of the now-sunken rig on April 22. Containment booms and skimmer vessels are being deployed to corral the oil. Coast Guard photo courtesy MSNBC.


Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana at November 19, 2009 Senate hearing that addressed environmental stewardship policies related to offshore drilling.

11 rig workers are still missing from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire off Louisiana. We are dismayed but still hoping for the best.

Just 5 months ago, as SkyTruth’s President I was invited to give testimony on the risks posed by offshore drilling at a Senate hearing. My well-documented testimony included details on the blowout at a new rig and platform off Australia last year that resulted in a 10-week-long oil spill, ultimately covering 22,000 square miles of ocean with millions of gallons of oil. At the same hearing the Deputy Director of the Minerals Management Service, the President of Shell Oil Company, and the Vice President of Gulf operations for BP (David Rainey) touted their environmental records and the technical achievements that supposedly have rendered major offshore accidents a thing of the past.

One of the Senators in attendance at that pro-drilling hearing suggested I was misleading the American public and being intentionally untruthful. Now that same Senator is calling for a thorough investigation of the blowout and spill in the Gulf from the doomed Deepwater Horizon drill rig.

You can read the testimony here.

You can watch streaming video of the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 47 minutes. Senator Landrieu’s comments and questions begin at 86:30 and 115:00.

A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words

A picture is worth 1,000 words.
First suggested by visionary Stewart Brand in 1966, this “Whole Earth” picture was taken in 1972 by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt.
This iconic image – humanity’s first glimpse of the entire planet – ushered in an era of environmental awareness.
At SkyTruth, we take a moment today to appreciate our small and miraculous home; to remember that all the life we know and care about is here, and here alone; and to renew our commitment to helping people see and understand our interdependence, inspiring positive action to protect the place that sustains us all.
Happy Earth Day!