As I mentioned last week and has been obvious for those on the scene for 2 weeks now, the Gulf Oil Spill has “disappeared”. Not disappeared entirely, but gone in the sense that there is hardly anything left floating around in the water. Clean-up of beaches and marshes continues, but it now looks like the threat of an extended environmental disaster is highly unlikely. NOAA (the source of some of the wilder original predictions about the scope of the spill) held a press conference yesterday where they said 70% of the oil was gone and 30% was under the surface. I would have to say that I am a bit skeptical of the 30% left figure given that oil in the Gulf typically lasts a week before it naturally evaporates or is degraded by bacteria. Even before the well was capped, the oil was not making it very far (such as the west coast of Florida) before being naturally degraded. Now that it has been stopped for a couple weeks, there should be even less oil in the water. Some scientists are legitimately worried about the oil and dispersants that has entered into the food web, however, the claim that this oil will be around in the Gulf for years (as some suggested a couple months ago) just doesn’t stand-up anymore.
A couple choice quotes from the NOAA/government press conference. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
“I think it is fairly safe to say … that many of the doomsday scenarios that we talked about and repeated a lot have not and will not come to fruition,”
If they had listened to rational scientific views (in addition to the worst-case hyperbole) they (the White House) probably would not have been as prone to spreading unwarranted and unproductive fear and hysteria. The rate at which oil degrades in the Gulf is well known but seems to have been mostly ignored in this case – except by BP’s scientists and their CEO who said the spill would have a “modest” impact. Tony Heyward may have not been very sensitive in his remarks early on, but it is starting to look like he was correct about the impact.
From Larry McKinney of Texas A&M University:
“BP attorneys are placing this in plastic and putting this in frames.”
This is in reference to the fact that a less destructive oil spill means BP does not have to pay as much money clean-up and other economic losses. So what. I am no fan of BP and I know they have had a shaky environmental and legal history, but I don’t think they should pay more than the losses incurred. Perhaps this is where most of the skepticism of the oil spill’s demise comes from. Perhaps there were many politicians and others waiting in line to take a piece of the recovery fund and now that it is not “the world’s worst environmental disaster” they see some cash slipping away.
Lastly, this is good news. An widespread catastrophic environmental disaster has not materialized.
More good news: A drought disaster was averted in Wisconsin this year. Based on the first 5 months of the year, it was looking quite dire for the northern half of the state. I didn’t even consider going into the northwoods to go fishing in May because the water levels were so low. I had to head south to find full streams. How things have changed in the last couple of months. The U.S Drought Monitor now indicates that 87.1 percent of the state is drought free. Last week only 76.9 percent was drought free, so we have seen a good improvement in the past week. There is still a small area (2.3 percent of the state) of severe drought in the far northeast so hopefully we will see some rain in those areas soon. The next chance of widespread heavier rainfall will be from Sunday through Tuesday of next week. The heat and humidity will increase during that time frame so there could be some heavier downpours.
Have a good Thursday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on August 5, 2010