BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Deeper Into Loop Current (??)

The MODIS / Terra image taken today shows a very faint, long belt of anomalous ocean color that appears to follow the Loop Current. We have very tentatively identified this as possible oil slick and sheen carried far to the south. Consider this a low-confidence analysis; it’s possible that the Loop Current has a distinct ocean-color signature without any oil present:

MODIS / Terra satellite image, May 21, 2010.
18 replies
  1. John says:

    Hey John,

    Great work as always. How much would I have to donate to get you to do a video that chronologically summarizes the spill and your work over the past month?

    I think it would be great if, after a video summarizing where we are, and how we got here, you could do a weekly video update.

    I'm sure that people would be interested in supporting strong video work that brings together a lot of the disparate reporting.

    You happen to be one of the few people who has the authority to self produce such a video.

    I think if you did the video it would get enough hits and attention to pay for making it.

    One thing that must be included in the video is a geographical overlay that compares the size of the spill with the size of cities, states, and nations.

    Let me know if you are interested in doing it.

  2. COLORADO BOB says:

    John –
    Fla. has over 130 desalination plants , many are deep well brackish water plants, but most draw of the sea.

    The Tampa Plant :

    ACCIONA Agua uses seawater reverse osmosis membranes desalination technology, which removes salt and other impurities from seawater, making it suitable for human consumption. At the Tampa Bay plant, reverse osmosis desalination technology moves water from Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

    The plant uses about 44 million gallons per day (mgd) of seawater from a nearby power plant’s cooling system, which is pretreated with sand filters and a diatomaceous earth filtration system to remove particles. Reverse osmosis filters then separate 25 mgd of freshwater from the seawater.


    5 bucks sez Light La. Crude mixed with Corexit 9500 ain't in the design specs on these filters.

  3. [Mike] says:

    Fox New put up a picture very similar to that and indicated that the long narrow band is indeed oil heading to the south of Florida….and then possibly out to the Atlantic…

  4. DUDE says:

    Is this the first time deep sea images are being streamed live? Also – I notice that all time code info is not on the live feed.

  5. John says:

    JR – the quality of the MODIS satellite images varies from day to day, based on the amount of clouds and haze and the sunglint pattern. Some days the images are not ideal for showing the slick, especially thinner areas of slick that don't have a strong spectral reflectance signature.

  6. New Orleans Ladder says:

    Hey Y'all,
    is there any way you can give us some Satellite look-down on our Louisiana estuaries? Landsat?

    We really need to see where this stuff is and where it is going and the NOAA forecast maps are NOT ACCURATE.

    The oil is in Barataria Bay pasT Grand Isle, the state is closing "Inside" fisheries.
    The oil all over our Pelican Nurseries in Plaquamines Parish.
    This is only the beginning.

    I of course have hung your Spill Tracker (again) but we really really need some more accurate remote imagery.

    Thank you in advance for your help.
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  7. New Orleans Ladder says:

    Thanks John. We really appreciate it. The Cajun Folk are inconsolable already, but on the ball. Just a couple of days ago the Jefferson Parish Emergency Managers commandeered 40 BP-leased boats which were anchored idle right behind Grand Isle as the oil came sliding past. They saw them on a fly-over to survey the oil and called in the Sheriffs Dept and took those ship, big ones that lay boom, and escorted them into Barataria Bay to meet the oil. WDSU did the story and WWL. These folks don't need to see where they're going, just where to find the oil. Time is critical since the oil coming in is NOT in the forecasts and apparently we cannot trust our Coast Guard on that one either. But I'm not here to pick on anyone. Just to illustrate how important and critical your work is in facing this growing catastrophe. We have no choice, none of us no mater where they live. No one will escape when the hurricanes come and carry it up into the mainland. Your work is the fulcrum which will determine whether we remain at the edge of this chaotic event, with innovation at our backs and stasis far behind, or become engulfed by it.
    Thus I see y'all Standing Up in the NYTs as an historical moment, literally one for the textbooks, and the first glimpse I've had of a possible future. When you pulled the plug on this BS y'all also rent some veil for many others in academia to get off their ass and do something. Alas, LSU's absence amongst your group struck me like the sound a funeral drum, not wholly unexpected (given their fat BP/Industry funding) yet stilling and too loud to ignore. It's a shame to because they've got some pretty bad'ass remote imaging systems and modeling acumen –or did before they fired Ivor van Heerden.

    Thanks y'all,

  8. John says:

    Colorado Bob – if verified, this is an ominous development. It could indicate the well pipe/casing is breaking down and oil/gas is escaping into the surrounding sediment beneath the seafloor. That would make a "top kill" very unlikely to succeed.

  9. COLORADO BOB says:

    John –
    Apparently MonkeyFister , and some others were watching the feed . Many threads discussing this , lots of explanations for what is being seen , but the well has been wild for over 4 weeks , grinding away at the casing.

  10. John says:

    Received via email from lwjewett 5/28/10:

    John, you are entirely correct.

    I found the attached NASA graphic of the "Sea Surface velocity" that was taken may 23, just a couple days after the image that you analyzed on may 21 and it looks like what you identified as the loop current DOES match up very well with the south-directed part of the velocity field shown on the sea velocity graphic.

    It looks (from eyeballing it) like the northward velocity field starts just below that (just out of the image you used) and a little west of that.

    By the way, I noticed your surface analysis number (1.1 million gallons a day) has been again validated by the analysis by the team of scientists put together to come up with a "better" flow number — better than Coast guard number, anyway! (Were you and Ian MacDonald involved in that?)

    Not really a surprise. particularly that it was significantly higher than what Coast Guard — and BP — have claimed. BP obviously has a vested interest in low balling the magnitude of the disaster to minimize their liability.

    I do wonder whether the newest range (between about 2 and 5 times the "official" 5000 barrel estimate) STILL might be a low-ball estimate though.

    I don't really know anything about how the latest analysis was performed to know how reliable it is.

    It's my feeling, however, that ANY estimate based on an analysis of the videos contains a large uncertainty because of the issue of gas vs oil. You can probably decrease that some by gray scale analysis of the images over some time period, but I'd guess that is probably still very uncertain, because the oil and gas is all mixed together AND you are seeing only the surface of the flow and from only a single perspective.

    As you and Dr. MacDonald have indicated, the number obtained from an analysis of surface slicks is very likely conservative. That's my hunch as well. You did not give error bars on that, but I'd bet that it's not a symmetric distribution (larger on the high side).

    We actually KNOW (from discovery o f large oil plumes, etc) that there is a lot of oil that has not reached (or stayed on) the surface, since BP has been using dispersant literally like it is going out of style (it was outlawed in the UK and I'd bet they are trying to dump their inventory)

    Of course, a lot of the guestimating about the actual flow could have been minimized if proper instrumentation had been put in place soon after the blowout. But BP obviously did not want that and it looks like they have basically been calling the shots — notwithstanding a recent very prominent claim to the contrary 🙂

    Keep up the great work.

    L Jewett

    Despite my initial cynicism, you and Ian MacDonald have managed to FORCE a measure of transparency onto this whole sad affair.

    Please note: message attached

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