Ten years ago SkyTruth analyzed satellite imagery to show the world that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was vastly larger than estimates provided to the public. SkyTruth’s analysis with Florida State University oceanographer Ian MacDonald set the stage for more accurate government estimates of the size of the spill, and helped form the basis for restoration funds to address the widespread damage. On April 14, 2020, Dr. MacDonald and SkyTruth’s President John Amos led a panel examining the implications of this disaster 10 years later, and exploring the risk of similar disasters occurring again. The webinar has ended, but the recorded version can be viewed here.
Panelist Statements and Slides
Maps and Animations
BP Spill Animation — 1080 and 4K versions (.zip file)
Animated interactive map displaying more than 18,000 reports of oil and gas leaks and spills in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP / Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Data collected from the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC).
Animated image (GIF) of the map showing 18,000 NRC pollution reports in the Gulf since the BP spill.
Interactive map showing the active oil and gas platforms and seafloor pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. Platforms installed after the BP / Deepwater Horizon disaster are highlighted. The 200 meter (656 feet) water depth line indicates the threshold for “deepwater” operations and royalty relief. In general, deepwater drilling involves higher-pressure wells and significantly greater technical complexity and risk than shallow water wells. Data collected from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
Papers and Articles
E&E News, Heather Richards and Michael Doyle, Apr. 13, 2020. [Investigative report describes staffing, morale, management and leadership problems at the key Federal agency overseeing the safety of offshore drilling] Read article
Samira Daneshgar Asl, John Amos, Paul Woods, Oscar Garcia-Pineda, Ian R. MacDonald, Science Direct, July 2016, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2014.12.006. [Research measuring the underreporting of oil leaks and spills in the Gulf of Mexico including the chronic Taylor Energy leak] Read paper
Nature, Mark Schrope, Jan. 28, 2013. [Brief description of research by Florida State University and SkyTruth documenting the underreporting of oil leaks and spills in the Gulf of Mexico] Read article
Shaojie Sun, Chuanmin Hu, Oscar Garcia-Pineda, Vassiliki Kourafalou, Matthieu Le Hénaff, Yannis Androulidakis, Science Direct, Nov. 2018. [Research quantifying the leakage rate from the Taylor Energy site, referred to here as MC-20] Read paper
The Environmental Law Reporter, Elliott A. Norse and John Amos, Nov. 2010. [Early lookback in spill aftermath] Read article
1993), Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico visible from space, J. Geophys. Res., 98( C9), 16351– 16364, doi:10.1029/93JC01289. [Seminal research on detecting oil slicks using radar satellite images] Read paper, , , , , , and (
Oscar Garcia-Pinedaa, Gordon Staples, Cathleen E. Jones, Chuanmin Hu, Benjamin Holt, Villy Kourafalou, George Graettinger, Lisa DiPinto, Ellen Ramirez, Davida Streett, Jay Choh, Gregg A. Swayze, Shaojie Sun, Diana Garcia, Francisco Haces-Garcia, Remote Sensing of Environment, Jan. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2019.111421. [Research into remote sensing for oil slick detection and measurement, featuring analysis of persistent slicks at the Taylor Energy site (referred to as MC20)] Read paper
Cathleen E. Jones and Benjamin Holt, Sensors, 2018. [Research into radar remote sensing of oil slicks featuring investigations of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the chronic Taylor Energy leak] Read paper
Ian MacDonald, Significance, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-9713.2010.00449.x. [2010, Dr. MacDonald critiques the spill-rate estimates made by BP and others during the BP / Deepwater Horizon disaster]. Read paper
Detection of Oil near Shorelines during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)
Oscar Garcia-Pineda, Jamie Holmes, Matt Rissing, Russell Jones, Cameron Wobus, Jan Svejkovsky and Mark Hess. Remote Sens. 2017, 9(6), 567; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs9060567. Read paper
Eklund, R. L., Knapp, L. C., Sandifer, P. A., & Colwell, R. C. ( 2019). Oil Spills and Human Health: Contributions of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. GeoHealth, 3, 391– 406. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GH000217. Read paper
I. R. MacDonald O. Garcia‐Pineda A. Beet S. Daneshgar Asl L. Feng G. Graettinger D. French‐McCay J. Holmes C. Hu F. Huffer I. Leifer F. Muller‐Karger A. Solow M. Silva G. Swayze, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 120, 8364– 8380 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JC011062. Read paper
Underwater Mudslides are the Biggest Threat to Offshore Drilling, and Energy Companies aren’t Ready for Them
The Conversation, Ian MacDonald (2019). Read article
The Fifth Circuit Restricts BSEE’s Enforcement Authority Over Offshore Contractors in the Gulf of Mexico
The National Law Review, Sept. 29, 2017. Read article
The New York Times, Bob Graham and
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine, 2018. (Especially the introduction which discusses Deepwater Horizon and how hard it is to measure overall safety when you have low-frequency, high-consequence events in high hazard industries like offshore drilling.) Read book
National Geographic, by Marianne Lavelle, Oct. 13, 2011. Read article
Smithsonian Magazine, Andrew Nikiforuk, July 12, 2016. Read article
compiled by Lois Epstein, 2020. Read PDF
Samantha Joye, Joel E. Kostka, 2020, ESSOAr. https://www.essoar.org/doi/10.1002/essoar.10502548.1. Read paper
Potential influence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on phytoplankton primary productivity in the northern Gulf of Mexico
Li, Yao & Hu, Chuanmin & Quigg, Antonietta & Gao, Huilin. (2019). Potential influence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on phytoplankton primary productivity in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Research Letters. 10.1088/1748-9326/ab3735. Read paper
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Sara Kleindienst, Michael Seidel, Kai Ziervogel, Sharon Grim, Kathy Loftis, Sarah Harrison, Sairah Y. Malkin, Matthew J. Perkins, Jennifer Field, Mitchell L. Sogin, Thorsten Dittmar, Uta Passow, Patricia M. Medeiros, and Samantha B. Joye. PNAS December 1, 2015 112 (48) 14900-14905 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1507380112. Read paper • See Appendix
Joye, S.B., S. Kleindienst, J.A. Gilbert, K.M. Handley, P. Weisenhorn, W.A. Overholt, and J.E. Kostka. 2016. Responses of microbial communities to hydrocarbon exposures. Oceanography 29(3):136–149, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2016.78. Read paper
Using Natural Abundance Radiocarbon To Trace the Flux of Petrocarbon to the Seafloor Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Jeffrey Chanton, Tingting Zhao, Brad E. Rosenheim, Samantha Joye, Samantha Bosman, Charlotte Brunner, Kevin M. Yeager, Arne R. Diercks, and David Hollander. Environmental Science & Technology. Read paper
Mark Davis. 3 Wash. & Lee J. Energy, Climate & Env’t. 155 (2012), https://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/jece/vol3/iss2/2. Read paper
Top image attribution: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response AND demis.nl AND FT2 / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.