Where’s the Fishing?

Apparently, off southern South America, it’s just outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Chile.

Here’s another nighttime DMSP satellite image composite from our friends at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center (as always, click to see a bigger version). We’ve planted it in Google Earth. It was made by combining three years worth of cloud-free nighttime satellite images, with 2011 displayed in red, 2010 in green and 2009 in blue. Look at the patterns of color out in the ocean, massed against Chile’s EEZ boundary, shown as a green line:

These patterns are probably made by the lights of fishing vessels: cargo ships are in a hurry to get from Port A to Port B, and don’t linger in the open ocean.  There are a variety of fishing restrictions within Chilean waters designed to protect local fishing and fisheries by limiting industrial fishing, but on the high seas beyond the EEZ boundary anything goes.  The fishing within Chile’s territorial waters must be relatively good, because this map shows that fishing vessels are trying to get as close as possible without crossing the line — although if you look closely, you can see indications of repeated incursions into Chilean waters.

Based on a study of Chilean fisheries, we think much of the fishing effort revealed on this image is probably targeting swordfish.

Fire Extinguishes Itself at Chevron Blowout off Nigeria

Chevron reports the fire in the ocean off Nigeria, blazing since their Funiwa-1A gas exploration well blowout occurred on January 16, finally went out on March 2.  It’s likely that the well “bridged over” and plugged itself, shutting off the flow of natural gas that had been feeding the fire, something every driller hopes for when they lose control of a well. 

Work will continue on a relief well so that the failed Funiwa-1A well can be properly plugged and abandoned.

We don’t see any signs of the fire on today’s MODIS/Terra satellite image.

Bakken Shale-Oil Drilling and Flaring Lights Up the Night Sky

Our friends at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center provided us with this very interesting satellite image composite of the upper Midwest, made from nighttime satellite images collected by the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.  State outlines are superimposed on the image:

Multiyear composite (1992, 2000, 2010) of nighttime DMSP satellite images of the Midwestern United States. Image courtesy NGDC.

Multiple cloud-free images collected over several years have been combined to make this picture:  1992 is shown in blue, 2000 in green, and 2010 in red.  Places that had lots of light in all three years show up bright white (equal amounts of blue, green and red) — that basically shows established cities and towns that haven’t changed much over that time period.

But whoa, check out that big patch of red in the northwest corner of North Dakota.  That indicates an area of bright lights in 2010 that was dark in 2000 and 1992.  What could this be?

Here’s a hint:  a map showing the extent of the red-hot Bakken Shale oil-drilling boom that got underway a few years ago. Oil is being produced from the Bakken by drilling and hydraulically fracturing (yes, that’s “fracking”) long horizontal wells, the same approach that is driving new drilling for oil and natural gas in the Haynesville, Fayetteville, Barnett, Marcellus, Utica, Niobrara and other hydrocarbon-rich shale formations around the country:

Wells drilled in the Bakken Shale, northwestern North Dakota – northeastern Montana.

So why is this area all lit up at night?  Well, the rigs and other facilities are highly illuminated because drilling is a 24/7 proposition – time is money so there is no “down time.”

But there is another reason too: operators in this oil field are flaring off large quantities of natural gas.  That’s right, burning it off as a hazardous nuisance.  Meanwhile some folks on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill complain loudly that environmental rules and government policies are limiting industry’s access to more public lands throughout America so they can drill for – you got it – natural gas. Despite the fact that industry is already sitting on thousands of approved drilling permits that remain idle, and millions of acres of leases they aren’t developing.

Yep, this makes my head hurt too.

So sit back and watch this spectacular time-lapse video shot by astronauts on the International Space Station for another view of this lit-up drilling area from space.  Go full screen for maximum enjoyment.  Maybe the stunning aurora borealis and flashes of lightning will make the headache go away…

Gulf of Mexico – March 5, 2012

Thought we’d share this beautiful look at the northern Gulf, brought to us by the skilled folks at NASA’s MODIS Rapid Response Team.  It’s detail from a MODIS/Terra satellite image shot at mid-day local time on March 5.  Striking aqua patterns of ocean color and turbidity; tan sediment plumes issuing from the mouths of the Mississippi Delta; sharply delineated white-sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle, Mississippi and Alabama; brown late-winter marshes of the Louisiana coast.

I can almost taste the gumbo.  And the jello shots.

This makes a great desktop background, so click to get the big version.

MODIS/Terra satellite image, Gulf of Mexico – March 5, 2012.