Gov’t Confirms Existence of Underwater Oil Plumes

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said that oil from the Deepwater Horizon is collecting in large, undersea plumes, confirming what independent scientists have been reporting for weeks. BP’s CEO has denied their existence, but NOAA head Jane Lubchenco said Tuesday that a team of scientists from the University of South Florida have found plumes as far as 42 miles northeast and 142 miles southeast of the wellhead.

Other scientists studying the Gulf have estimated that one plume is as large as 22 miles long, six miles wide and more than a thousand feet deep, made up of globules of oil of varying sizes. Lubchenco said that NOAA’s tests “indicate there is definitely oil sub surface,” but that it is in “very low concentrations.”

“We have always known there is oil under the surface,” Lubchenco said. Several weeks ago, however,  the head of BP, Tony Hayward, argued that the oil “is on the surface,” adding that the company’s tests found “no evidence” of underwater plumes.

Hayward’s comments not only contradicted scientists, but others from his company and the basic science of chemical dispersants, which BP has been using in unprecedented volumes in the Gulf. The chemicals are designed to break the oil into smaller globs so that it sinks below the surface, and to speed the process of biodegradation. 

Scientists have said the plumes may deplete the oxygen in the water, which would further threaten marine life. There’s also concern about the toxicity of the dispersant BP has been using, and that the dispersed oil may travel farther and affect a larger region of the Gulf.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate