Gulf oil spill: It could’ve been … worse?

Freshwater ‘bulge’ from the Mississippi River may have kept some oil away from the Gulf Coast

A NASA satellite image shows the Deepwater Horizon oil slick spreading across a huge section of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that fouled huge stretches of the northern Gulf Coast could have hit the coast even harder but for the mighty Mississippi, according to geoscientists with the University of Pennsylvania, who said in a new study that pulses of freshwater from the river helped keep some of the oil offshore.

According to Douglas Jerolmack, the force of the Mississippi River emptying into the Gulf of Mexico created mounds of freshwater which pushed some of the oil slick off shore. The results of the study could help responders during future oil disasters decide where to focus preventive and cleanup efforts during the immediate response.

Jerolmack said he decided to do the study after noticing a disconnect between daily forecasts of where the oil movement and the locations where it actually ended up. The problem, he said, was that the models were based on looking the movement of the oil based primarily on known ocean currents, while not considering all the other factors that could affect the incoming pollution.

Other follow-up studies show that the oil continues to have profound effects on Gulf ecoysystems, including elevated levels of metals in oysters, and toxic effects on marine mammals and fish. Continue reading

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