What The BP Spill Might Look Like 360 Days Later

If you’ve got any plans to ever visit any beaches on the east coast, best get them in this summer before it’s too late. That’s the conclusion you can draw if this simulation by researchers of how the BP Gulf spill will look 360 days after April 20th comes to pass.

The simulation, which is only one possible scenario, was created by a team of researchers at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Department of Oceanography, and the International Pacific Research Center Hawaii. They caution that it is not a detailed forecast and does not take into account effects like coagulation, tarballs, dispersion and microbial degradation.
Here’s what they said of their science:

For the simulations, 5 million buoyant particles were released continuously from April 20 to September 17, 2010, at the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The release occurred in ocean flow data from simulations conducted with the high-resolution Ocean General Circulation Model for the Earth Simulator (OFES). The paths of the particles were calculated over 360 days from the beginning of the spill. The simulations were conducted with surface ocean circulation data of 5 typical years rather than the actual flow fields…

The animations show the calculated surface particle concentrations for grid boxes about 10-km-by-10-km in size into April 2011. For an estimated flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well of 50,000 barrels per day over a 150 day period, a concentration of e.g. 10 particles per a grid box corresponds roughly to an oil volume of 2 m3 per ~100 km2 area. The animations show the initial spreading of oil into the Gulf of Mexico followed by its entry from the Loop Current into the narrow Florida Current and then the Gulf Stream. Transported by the Gulf Stream, the erratic paths of the particles in the Atlantic are due to strong current instabilities associated with ocean eddies and recirculations. This leads to a high degree of particle dispersal and dilution in the open Atlantic away from the coast.

These computer simulations suggest that the coastlines near the Carolinas, Georgia and Northern Florida could see the effects of the oil spill as early as October 2010.

Quick, someone drop some Philip Glass on the soundtrack.


Edit Your Comment

  1. jason in boston says:

    As much as I love simulations – this is only one. How many different weather simulations do we get and even all of those are wrong. The earth is big and there are so many different variables.

    With that said, when there is oil, BP will have to clean it up. If oil makes it to the Vineyard, summer home to most of the legislators in the state, I am sure it will get cleaned up very quickly. It stinks that the world operates that way.

    • frari489 says:

      ocean currents are much more predictable than atmospheric changes which produce different weather patterns so you cant really compare the two.

    • atheos says:

      That’s great that you’re confident that BP will clean up this mess. I’m not confident that they or anyone is even capable of cleaning it up. But hey, optimism is a great thing.

    • RevancheRM says:

      The problem with your false statement (“and even all of those are wrong”) is that it is false.

      If financial models worked as well as the government’s atmospheric prediction models (both civilian and military), then the corporations would be demanding the technical knowhow either be restricted (and turned over to) to the highest bidder or made public knowledge.

      Most people see the news when it says there is an 80% chance of rain, thinking that means it will rain for 80% of the day or that they personally will get rained upon. When that doesn’t happen, they claim the “weather guessers” got it wrong. Never mind that it DID rain in the regional area.

      Ignorance is bliss, no?

  2. dolemite says:

    Of course the federal government and BP are taking this very seriously. It’s going to cost a lot to hire enough security to keep people off of their own property and public beaches to prevent bad PR, when 50% of the US coastline is affected.

    • c!tizen says:

      On the bright side, at least this means more jobs.


      • Griking says:

        Actually I was thinking about this the other day.

        There probably will be a ton of new jobs to help clean up the coastlines in areas that rely on tourism. It may only been teenagers and the unemployed that take these jobs but still.

        • SexCpotatoes says:

          Then they can all die before they reach 37 years old. Oil cleanup workers have drastically shorter lifespans.

          • webweazel says:

            Actually, the clean up people have to have HAZWOPER training certificates. The class is $350, 3 days, 7am-7pm. If they don’t pass, no certificate, no working. They wear protective gear at all times, and they are trained to know what to do. It’s not like they’re handing nose-picking teenagers and senior citizens toddler’s plastic sand shovels & buckets and saying “have at it.” C’mon, people.

    • spamtasticus says:

      It is much worse than that. The government is now colluding with BP to cover it up:


  3. TuxthePenguin says:

    If BP and the government can barely handle cleaning up when contained to the gulf, how crappy are they going to perform when they have to start worrying about the Atlantic seaboard as well?

    What are the odds the BP spins off BP America and then has BP America file for bankruptcy to limit the damage?

    • cynical_reincarnation says:

      I don’t think they can do that, it will still fall onto the original company.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        I think BP isn’t one big company. BP America is technically the company that had Deepwater Horizon.

        Then again, BP as a whole could go into bankruptcy, but that would be in London. How much you want to bet that that London would be generous to American claims?

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      About the same odds that one millisecond after the Government catches wind of it, they’ll drag the company into court, and force this new BP America into receivership, and be the first creditor in line to gut it.

  4. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    “They caution that it is not a detailed forecast and does not take into account effects like coagulation, tarballs, dispersion and microbial degradation.”

    So, in other words, it’s worthless?

    My environmental simulation, with also doesn’t take into account the above, looks a little like the Sherman Williams logo.

    • Ben says:

      No, it’s not worthless. The scientists are just not close to 100% certain that this is how things will look. Something doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect to be valuable.

      • ARP says:

        Sure it’s worthless. Unless you can predict something with 100% certainity, you can safely ignore it. Or at least that’s what Fox News tells me re: evolution, climate change, cancer causing agents, gravity, physics, etc.

        • rayne117 says:

          “Unless you can predict something with 100% certainity, you can safely ignore it”

          If you are not an Atheist, then you are the biggest hypocrite ever.

      • lemur says:

        Well, given the caveats that the scientists themselves made, I’d say their simulation is worthless *today* as a means of predicting what will happen with this specific oil spill.

        It is not worthless in the grander scheme of scientific advancement. They’ll be able to compare their model to reality and decide what adjustments they need to make.

  5. chaesar says:

    Maybe I can finally afford some beachfront property after this is over

  6. almondwine says:

    Link or it didn’t happen, Ben.

  7. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    Does it also take into account any attempts by BP or other parties to clean up the oil? I would think that it should be a factor as to how far it can spread in a year’s time.

  8. Akuma Matata says:

    Good for them – limit the variables in order to produce the most fear-inducing graphic possible.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Should we assume that you actually have some proof that taking those variables into account wouldn’t have been extremely difficult if not impossible?

      • Akuma Matata says:

        I’m not the one who produced that graphic minus those variables. Whether or not the impact the drawing is for the researchers to determine.

  9. PanCake BuTT says:

    I seriously doubt 360 days later is any sort of ‘long term’, let’s try 360 years later, & have the NOAA chime in. Now we’re cookin’ with fire !

  10. jjcraftery says:

    If they ruin my Outer Banks, NC vacation this year OR next year…….I’m suing.

  11. smo0 says:

    So… maybe? sure…

    But before people go on the “well WE JUST DON’T KNOW DO WE?!” bandwagon… I lived in Floriday… for the first 12 years of my life… then back after I graduated HS, let me tell you a little something about the gulfstream…

    that… right there, is going to happen.

  12. MonkeyMonk says:

    At least it looks like the Rhode Island beachfronts are spared in this scenario. Finally something Rhode Island can brag about!

  13. truthandjustice says:

    INTEL’s supercomputers corroborate these findings via different methodologies . . .

    BP may not know where oil from the Gulf gusher will go next, but Intel does. The Xeon-powered Encanto supercomputer, located at Intel’s Rio Rancho campus, is one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. And all of its 3,500 quad-core processors are devoted to tracking the potential paths of the BP disaster.

    Encanto started working on the oil disaster just a few days after it began, but progress has been slow-going. The first six simulations alone sucked up over 250,000 hours of computer time using the Parallel Ocean program, a 3-D ocean circulation model design at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Read more . . . . http://www.fastcompany.com/1668746/intels-encanto-supercomputer-knows-where-bps-oil-disaster-is-headed?partner=rss

  14. asturgisvt says:

    Hopefully we’ll have an active hurricane season to reduce high oil concentrations.

    • blogger X says:

      Wouldn’t a hurricane have a double-edge sword effect? Wouldn’t it reduce the high oil concentrations, but also spread the oil around?

  15. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Well I’ve been trying to go visit the Georgia coast this summer so I’m glad to hear it will take its time getting there. I do wish there was some way to stop it, because the part of the simulation that worries me is the part that is way out in the middle of the ocean. It’s going to end up EVERYWHERE.

  16. Tim says:

    Psh. Conflict of interest: Hawaii wants people to visit its beaches, so they’re trying to scare people away from competing beaches.

  17. Clyde Barrow says:

    I wonder if any BP officials or anyone for that matter has stopped to think how really damaging this could be in terms of damaging an entire lifeline of business and livelyhood for generations? This really could ramifications that we are completely unaware of and could severly destroy a body of water permanently for 100+ years? If this leak isn’t stopped, LA and Texas coast lines are toast and we won’t see it come back in our life time.

    I am at a lost as to why BP hadn’t had some type of measure or idea as to what to do years ago in case of such an incident? That’s normal procedure at any company; if something breaks you have an SOP in place on how to fix it.

  18. Clyde Barrow says:

    Re-read the fine print: The simulation, which is only one possible scenario, was created by a team of researchers at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Department of Oceanography, and the International Pacific Research Center Hawaii.

    This wasn’t done in a kid’s bedroom but by experts in the field. And second, it’s a sim-u-lation. It’s a “what-if” scenario based upon known facts and possible outcomes based on those facts using the substance at hand, oil, to find a possible result. Just a theory. I have put together “what-ifs” in production sceanario’s and it is basically the same idea; using my knowledge and skill to predict an outcome based on known facts in a given environment. Since these folks work in this field, I would say that this “prediction” is pretty damn good regardless of what really will happen.

  19. Xyjar says:

    I’m now convinced we have enough oil left on the planet for all 6-7 billion people in the world to drive Hummers and Scorpion Tanks for our daily commutes and anywhere else we go for the next few centuries.

  20. Alex F. says:

    This is absolutely terrifying! It looks like in about 400 days the oil will reach coast-line of UK… I wish they would make this simulation a bit longer to show this.

    It’s about time for our (UK) government to wake up and do something about it… Surely this is international issue by now.