Skip

When it rains, it pours.
June 25, 2010 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Is it really raining oil in Lousiana? A YouTube video captured by someone claiming to be a resident of River Ridge, Lousiana, roughly 45 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, purports to show evidence of just that. The EPA and other experts remain unconvinced, citing the seemingly obvious fact that oil does not evaporate. The local press characterizes the claims as "exaggerations and hysterical falsehoods." But at least one previous study has been offered to argue that oil broken down with dispersants can in fact evaporate under the right conditions.

It's also worth noting that until recently, the EPA also remained skeptical of claims that the application of dispersants could be creating massive underwater oil plumes, claims which have since been confirmed with concentrations of oil detected in the deadly range of 1 to 2 parts per million. Meanwhile, sharks, dolphins and other sea animals appear to be making a desperate run for the coast.
posted by saulgoodman (81 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
it's the end of the world and i don't feel fine at all
posted by angrycat at 8:42 AM on June 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


That video looks like it's just regular rain mixed with whatever surface pollutants were already in his street/drain.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


no.
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2010


That video was not very convincing.
posted by lullaby at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oil does evaporate, although not nearly as rapidly as water does. However, the real problem with the report of raining oil is that even if the oil does evaporate, it does not evaporate in such quantities as to form clouds of oil vapor which can then cause a precipitation of oil - at least not on our planet (there are a number of moons of gas giant planets which do have hydrocarbon rain of various sorts). But then, there are other ways that things can rain. Sometimes there is a rain of frogs or fish. This happens when a waterspout - a kind of geyser of water caused by a weather anomaly, sort of like a small tornado - carries aquatic life with it into the air, from whence it will eventually fall to earth. If the water is polluted with oil, and there is a waterspout, I see no reason why there would not then be some amount of oil raining down from the sky.
posted by grizzled at 8:48 AM on June 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


That video looks like it's just regular rain mixed with whatever surface pollutants were already in his street/drain.

I am absolutely no scientist, but it doesn't look like that when it rains here in Philly/NYC, and I'd guess there's just as much oily crap on the streets here than there is in LA.
posted by angrycat at 8:49 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


...the seemingly obvious fact that oil does not evaporate.

In the early days of the spill, we were assured by media reports that a great deal of the oil could indeed be expected to evaporate. It happens every time there's a spill; evaporation usually cleans up more oil than the deliberate clean-up attempts do.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:50 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the video, one can see that the oil is present by the characteristic "rainbow" sheen, except when the camera points at the gutter. In the drain he reports black oil.

Rainbow sheen only happens when oil is in the range of 0.15 to 0.50 µm thick. Oil appears dark, brown to black with a thickness of as little as 10 to 50 µm. In addition, the rainbow sheen only happens on very smooth surfaces, usually only ever on top of water.

There's not a lot of oil in that video. To my eye, this is consitent with what you would expect to see rain runoff water from a busy, oily road in the first minutes of a rainstorm. Whether it was raining oil or not, this exact effect happens many times a day when it rains on dirty, high-trafic roads.

I would need more evidence to be convinced.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 8:50 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fish and other wildlife seem to be fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast in a trend that some researchers see as a potentially troubling sign. (last link)

Ya think so? Does that have the potential to trouble you? Jesus.
posted by heyho at 8:56 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "South Louisiana" oil that is coming out of the Deepwater Horizion wellhead does indeed evaporate readily. Tests show that it can evaporate 40-50% by mass within the first few days of being in the environment. Most of the compounds that do evaporate i) are not very water soluble, so they are unlikely to attach to raindrops in the atmosphere, and ii) breakdown fairly quickly in sunlight and the presence of oxygen.

The surfactant molecules in the dispersant, PPG (Tweens), and the ionic sulfonate compounds, are non-volatile. They have no measurable vapor pressure. I would be very skeptical of claims that they are evaporating, any more than laundry detergent does.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 8:57 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


...other wildlife seem to be fleeing the oil

So long and thanks for killing all the fish.
posted by Babblesort at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am absolutely no scientist, but it doesn't look like that when it rains here in Philly/NYC, and I'd guess there's just as much oily crap on the streets here than there is in LA.

Don't they use different road paving materials in areas that don't freeze? I know in Los Angeles, they have real issues with oil making the roads slick when it rains, which I've never heard of in the Northeast.
posted by smackfu at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2010


Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water off Florida beaches...

A large number of sharks near Florida beaches? I don't think that's gonna help their tourism campaign!
posted by exhilaration at 9:05 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haven't there been cases of cyclones picking up frogs and fish from the water and then the same weather system depositing them miles away? That could be an explanation if this video needed one. I'm pretty unconvinced myself
posted by Think_Long at 9:07 AM on June 25, 2010


I'm a bicycle commuter and I see stuff like that all the time, it's just runoff from the street or parking lots. Not "oil rain". The whole thing sounds like a goofy conspiracy theory from the godlikeproductions forum.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2010


I'm also an aquarium keeper, the "brown foamy" stuff in the video looks like blue-green algae (BGA) to me. It's just bacterial growth, you find it all over the place, including storm drains.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2010


Yes, of course the oil spill is bad, but my God people need to calm down around here. I have friends that the day the oil started to spill claimed *from New Orleans* that they could smell the oil in the air.

It is a monumental disaster, and of course there's going to be repercussions we can't even begin to imagine yet however I am thoroughly unconvinced that this is more than just rainwater + run-off + catastrophizing citizen.
posted by The Captain and Ten Eels at 9:15 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's raining oil? Hallelujah!

I have never, ever, in my whole life, seen a puddle on a road with an oily surface scum. This is - as yet unverified - astounding.
posted by Elmore at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2010


Whether it's convincing or not, it should be studied and scientifically documented what is going on in this case. Scientists should be looking at all aspects of this disaster.
posted by Increase at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't they use different road paving materials in areas that don't freeze? I know in Los Angeles, they have real issues with oil making the roads slick when it rains, which I've never heard of in the Northeast.

Ah, okay. I hope it is just hysteria, then.
posted by angrycat at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2010


I'm also an aquarium keeper, the "brown foamy" stuff in the video looks like blue-green algae (BGA) to me. It's just bacterial growth, you find it all over the place, including storm drains.

I agree that it looks like BGA, but where I come from, BGA stands for Barf-like Gutter Accumulation.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty skeptical of this video myself.

However, the video footage of sharks and other marine life swarming the shoreline along the gulf is pretty damn disturbing, and I'm hearing reports from friends of weird phenomena like portions of the Gulf along the Pensacola coast bubbling like acid, as shown in this video.

And I do find questions like this one worthy of serious consideration, no matter how unlikely. Because the reality is we are in completely uncharted territory here. Anyone who denies that is deluded or lying.

As you've acknowledged many times before, Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet, the consequences of applying large quantities of dispersants to oil flowing nearly a mile below the surface of the ocean are not at all well understood. It's never been done this way before. And certainly never on scales of this magnitude, period, so no one can say with any certainty what the ecological effects will be. And I would be very surprised if we don't see many more effects down the line that might previously have been dismissed as extremely unlikely (like the underwater oil plumes); I'm not convinced this is a case of that either. But I'd really like to know for sure.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had this thought when all this started and got bad, which was, when hurricanes started up wouldn't the hurricanes pick up all the oil and whip it around and drop it all over the place?
posted by amethysts at 9:29 AM on June 25, 2010


as they say on the internet, lab tested field samples or it didn't happen.
posted by nowoutside at 9:35 AM on June 25, 2010


The possible oil-rain is, so to speak, a drop in the ocean. If this is getting attention it's a good thing humans aren't amphibious, because then we would be outraged.
posted by Elmore at 9:35 AM on June 25, 2010


I know in Los Angeles, they have real issues with oil making the roads slick when it rains, which I've never heard of in the Northeast.

Pretty sure it is the same materials. The roads are more slick when it rains in LA because it rains less so more oil builds up.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2010


Fuckin' rainbows (on top of water), how do they work?
posted by symbioid at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Whether it's raining oil or not, we will see much, much more disturbing things before this is over. Will it change anything? Probably not.

As I biked to work this morning I looked at all the SUVs and Humvees and thought to myself, "they'll get our internal combustion engines from us when they pry them from our cold, dead hands." Which shouldn't take all that long from the trend of things.

Oh I am so depressed.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2010


"the video footage of sharks and other marine life swarming the shoreline along the gulf is pretty damn disturbing"

David: “There must be thousands of them. Millions of 'em. What the hell are they doing?”

Captain Hiller: “Looks like they're preparing an invasion.”
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2010


BTW, symbioid, there's a pretty good explanation of oil rainbows here.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:45 AM on June 25, 2010


The roads are more slick when it rains in LA because it rains less so more oil builds up.

According to this, Louisiana gets on average around 60 inches of rain per year. I can honestly say that where I live in Norheast Florida, which has similar weather patterns to Louisiana, I've never seen rainbows of oil running in the streets after a rainstorm. And I've lived either here or even closer to the Gulf my entire life.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:50 AM on June 25, 2010


LOL kinnakeet - thanks... dunno if you know the whole ICP "miracles" meme, but it was a takeoff of that...

That said - when i first saw the video I felt it was bogus if only for the fact that all he did was seem to point to a small puddle on the side of the road, and oil-slicks are a dime a dozen on pavement like that. So until I saw a larger area filled with this, I was skeptical. I just hope people don't fall too much for this shit.

There's enough shit going on that we don't need lies and fakery (or just plain idiocy) to try to hype it up even more.
posted by symbioid at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Once the hurricanes hit, they'll pick up the oil and water and aerate it into a volatile gaseous froth.

Then, when the lighting strikes which accompany hurricanes ignite the combustion funnel, we'll have mile-high flaming cones of destruction churning across our godforsaken landscape.

Shit's gonna be epic.
posted by Aquaman at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


"lightning" damn it.
posted by Aquaman at 9:52 AM on June 25, 2010


The swarming, well, that video didn't show swarming. Looked to me like a school of Bonita or Ladyfish or Jack Crevalles or Bluefish or some other predatory fish that schools up at attacks baitballs, and the sharks are doing their thing and picking off the stragglers and/or the schooling predatory fish. Bonita are great shark bait.

That's not to say the schooling isn't happening---but this is the best time of year to shark fish from shore in the Gulf Shores-Panama City stretch of the gulf, big fish in shallow water.

I mean, I've watched an 8 foot sandshark bite a bonita in half 5 feet off a jetty before.

The dolphins always chill by the piers as well, stealing your kingfish and mackerel and whatever else you try to reel in. I've got video of them bunching and team-hunting schools of bluefish, the same school of bluefish I was casting to.

This is also getting to be the time of year that the mullet return from the gulf, all fat and sassy, and get netted up by cast-netters from shore or near-shore. In florida, the personal daily limit is 99lbs...in your posession, per day. Meaning you can go multiple times in 1 day. There's a lot of mullet. (Also, they're nasty, but some people like them. They're basically ocean carp. Eww.)

I'm sure it's very very bad---but these sea animals behaving in his way is certainly not uncommon.
posted by TomMelee at 9:57 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


A sort of flaming oleocane. . .

Petropical Storm?
posted by General Tonic at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2010


@saulgoodman: I meant the other LA.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:00 AM on June 25, 2010


Oil does evaporate, although not nearly as rapidly as water does. However, the real problem with the report of raining oil is that even if the oil does evaporate, it does not evaporate in such quantities as to form clouds of oil vapor which can then cause a precipitation of oil

No one made that claim. What they said was that rainwater was polluted with oil, creating a sheen. Now, it does seem like there was probably just some oil was just on the road, maybe leaked from a car or something, but you should at least try to figure out what people are actually claiming before trying to refute it.

Also, Crude oil is a mixture of tons of organic compounds. Some of which are naturally gaseous (like methane) all the way to stuff like asphault. Some of it is going to evaporate and some will stay liquid.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on June 25, 2010


Fucking' mile-high flaming cones of destruction churning across our godforsaken landscape, how do they work?
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:02 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]




"And I've lived either here or even closer to the Gulf my entire life."

Well, except for when I lived in Germany for a few years when I was little. Phew! Thank god I'm not in politics. If I were, that little omission of fact would have been repeated endlessly in the echo chamber for weeks and might have cost me the election!

Oh I am so depressed.

Don't be depressed: be coldly, calmly, rationally angry.


I'm sure it's very very bad---but these sea animals behaving in his way is certainly not uncommon.

I'm originally from just outside Panama City and spent a lot of time bumming around on the beach as a kid. I never saw large numbers of sharks swimming that close to shore. True, I've seen a couple of shark carcasses on the beach in my time, but only rarely, and I've never seen anything like what's depicted in the video.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]




Well, 40 minutes west in Destin, it happens all the time. Last year in Navarre some beach fisherman caught a 675lb mako, although it was not part of a school.

What I'll give is that the more surface-friendly baitfish are probably closer to shore, which is bringing the sharks in with them. In Navarre/FWB/Destin, you can always find bonita within 2-3 miles of shore, even in the winter, in fact they're hard to miss--just look for gulls. And where there are Bonita, there are big ass sharks. Also, those weren't really big sharks.
posted by TomMelee at 10:10 AM on June 25, 2010


Well, 40 minutes west in Destin, it happens all the time.

(Heh. I once accidentally took a wrong turn on the way home from PCB and drove all the way to Destin before I realized my mistake. That's right in my neck of the woods.0

In Navarre/FWB/Destin, you can always find bonita within 2-3 miles of shore, even in the winter, in fact they're hard to miss--just look for gulls.

But that's the whole point of this video. These sharks aren't 2-3 miles out. You can plainly see in the video, they're crowding just a few yards from the beach.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2010


You get sea spray from waves breaking carrying droplets into the air. Can you get sea spray with oil droplets mixed in it when there is oil on the surface of the water?
posted by DarkForest at 10:24 AM on June 25, 2010


For what it's worth, I took this photo in Mountain View, CA when out there visiting a friend and it started raining. The photo shows an oil slick in the gutter right after the start of rain and oil is being washed into the road. I'd never seen this before as I'm from Michigan where we frequently have weather, and thus the oil gets washed off the roads much more regularly.

I've also seen massive oil rainbows in the parking lot at work, running all the way down the gutter to the main road, caused by nothing more than one leaky landscaping truck. This could easily be not much more than that.
posted by c0nsumer at 10:27 AM on June 25, 2010


yea---yea, you're right. But I'm saying, I've seen a very similar phenomenon (albeit at a different time of year) that close to shore. The people in the video, like a whole lot of people not familiar w/ the gulf ecology, are all "OMG SHARKS", not understanding that they're always there, and in dense numbers---usually just off the second break.

I mean, anytime from february-september, you can rig a large mullet or a chunk of bonita and either fling it w/ a surf pole or kayak it out to ~100-200 yards off shore and you WILL at least HOOK a shark within a couple hours, assuming the rip and cross tides don't drag your bait back in to shore.
posted by TomMelee at 10:28 AM on June 25, 2010


Can you get sea spray with oil droplets mixed in it when there is oil on the surface of the water?

Absolutely. When we look for oil on a shoreline, we consider several zones: between the high and low tide lines, above the high tide line, called the splash or supra-tidal zone and the "backshore", the line of vegetation encroching on the shoreline.

On an oiled shore, one that has been oiled by small globs or patches in the surf, oil residue is most often found in the splash zone, above the high tide mark. Globs of oil get flug up by the waves and stick to the rocks and plants. The only time this oil get scoured away is during big storms, like hurricanes.

The farthest I've seen oil flung by surf is about 100m, and that was on a beach with breaking waves 3-4m high.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2010


Mmmmm, Phyrexia.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2010


The people in the video, like a whole lot of people not familiar w/ the gulf ecology, are all "OMG SHARKS", not understanding that they're always there, and in dense numbers---usually just off the second break.

I see your point (and it wouldn't be the first time the national news got basic info about the Gulf wrong), but the reports seem to suggest that marine life specialists studying the Gulf are seeing signs that this isn't just the usual kind of thing. It does still seem a little unclear from the reports that are out right now though.

If the shark story really is just a product of one reporter seeing something weird in the Gulf and jumping to conclusions, then count me skeptical, too. But if people who've been studying the Gulf are seeing unusual patterns here, that's a different animal.

Too bad almost every one out of the 50,200 results I get from Google on this topic are all just basically reproducing the same identical AP copy without providing any new additional information. Good thing we've got so many news sources to choose from now. YouTube videos like the one in the main post seems to be just about as credible as the mainstream news these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:57 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


can it rain frogs?

do frogs evaporate? does algae? (sometimes found hundreds of miles inland)

bp would love for us to argue day and night about if oil can evaporate. that argument is meaningless. evaporation is not the only method by which oil can be carried inland by storms.

if it can rain frogs, it can surely rain corexit tainted oil droplets.
posted by kimyo at 11:01 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Whether it's convincing or not, it should be studied and scientifically documented what is going on in this case. Scientists should be looking at all aspects of this disaster.

I can't favorite this enough.

Every goddamn story I read on this brings me close to tears as it is, even when I'm remaining skeptical of videos like this and the 'boiling' waves one. But seriously, most of the response seems to be 'that can't happen', rather than sending someone out to analyze the water. It wouldn't be that hard to tap multiple groundwater wells in the area affected by the 'oil rain' and analyze it.

I understand this is fairly recent and the debate is ongoing, but you would think some agency would be jumping to send people out and investigate.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2010


Oh, hey guys! The makings of the first tropical storm in the Gulf region is just south of the Yucatan!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 AM on June 25, 2010


I musta skimmed the article too quickly (ok, i'll admit, I mostly fixated on the AP video), cuz I didn't see much more than "Look what our reporter found, ZOMG AHHH".

I should redact the wording of my first statement to say something more similar to "I'm quite sure that gulf animals are behaving significantly differently right about how, however, from my experiences, this video does not demonstrate a real variation."
posted by TomMelee at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2010


I haven't thought about it much, but in scenarios like this I don't think companies should be able to deny access to any aspect involved (see BP hindering people from taking photos of oil-covered wildlife, the whole deal with the 'there are no oil plumes' thing, etc.) And not even just for the press; this is a huge disaster and we will be reeling from it for a while, but it is our opportunity to study every single angle of this thing and learn as much as we possibly can from it, seeing as we apparently aren't even sure of how oil behaves in these environments. Well, here's our chance.

Seeing as we've fucked it up already we might as well get as much data as possible out of it. It would be nice to have some kind of emergency funding tucked away for things like this so that certain, pre-determined experts in the field could be activated in the event of these sorts of catastrophes to just go out and collect as much data in a variety of fields (biology, ecology, meteorology, hydrology) as possible.

Much of the infrastructure for some of the analyses that might need to be made (water gauging stations and water monitoring wells, for example) is already in place, and agencies or universities could work together to use the instrumentation as needed to analyze what would no doubt be a huge load of samples in a variety of mediums. It isn't something I've really thought about before, but I'm sure (or maybe I just hope) that some of these phenomena will be short-lived and our opportunity to study them will be as well. The longer-lasting ones could obviously be handled on a longer time frame.

But I don't hold out much hope for us managing to ferret away any more of our national budget for science, we've got wars and all to fight. And we'd have to start demanding access and accountability from companies, which is a whole 'nother hurdle I don't have much confidence we'll ever jump.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2010


See also
posted by dibblda at 11:17 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be very surprised if we don't see many more effects down the line that might previously have been dismissed as extremely unlikely (like the underwater oil plumes);

I appreciate the caution, but there is a difference between unknown and omplausible scenarios. Transport of some of the more soluble compounds in oil, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and the xylenes (BTEX) and poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) by rain I could be conviced of. Nothing like that has been reported before, but there's a mechanism where that might happen. The EPA is monitoring for exactly this (you can see some of their monitoring stationson this map here), but they've had no detectible increases in those compounds in the air. They've also got an airplane doing air vapor testing, which for some reason isn't on the website, and those guys tell me that they're only seeing elevated levels of BTEX and hydrocarbons over the zone where the oil is surfacing. So far, there are real risks to the workers out on the ships, but there doesn't appear to be much concern for people on shore. The oil smells bad, but vapors don't appear to be dangerous on shore.

Rains of black oil well inland from the spill, however, I just can't take seriously. Black oil cannot completely evaporate under normal temeratures. For this oil in particular, only about half of it can evaporate. The rest forms a tarry sticky mass which will not further evaporate. There's no possible mechanism by which it could evaporate, condense and rain "oil". Transport of pure liquid oil as droplets in the air is also very unlikely. Oil doesn't form stable aerosols in air; the oil droplets fall out fairly quickly. So, like I said, I'd need a lot more evidence than this as proof. Rains of oil have never been reported on any previous spill as far as I'm aware.

The sub-surface plumes, on the other hand, were of immediate concern to a lot of scientists as soon as deepwater application was contemplated. NOAA and the EPA had the MV Brooks McCall (pro publica pdf) out in early May looking for sub-surface and deepwater plumes as soon as this started. The inital Brooks McCall measurements occurred well before the Pelican scientists made their initial report of subsurface plumes in the NYTimes. The Brooks McCall measurements were very specific for oil and dispersed oil. High quality instrumentation was used on these cruises, including fluorometry and particle size measurements, information that's extremely important ot understand what's going on deep in the water. They've confirmed that there is oil at depth with good accuracy in their data, and that the oil shows strong signs (in the fluorescence data) of containing dispersant. It's pretty clear that dispersant application at depth is the most-likely cause of these plumes now.

I don't mean to be dismissive, but there's not a lot of credibility to this video. It sure looks like a mistake (at best) to me.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 11:26 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Captain and Ten Eels said:
Yes, of course the oil spill is bad, but my God people need to calm down around here. I have friends that the day the oil started to spill claimed *from New Orleans* that they could smell the oil in the air.
I'm trying to find an appropriate reaction to your statement. Are you implying that we in New Orleans can not smell the oil? I have lived down here off and on since 2001 and there are now certain days that there is a thick nasty melted-crayon/melted-plastic smell that I have never in my life smelled before, and that didn't appear in our air until after the spill. I don't smell it every day, I don't even smell it every week - but sometimes when you walk outside there is an unmistakable petroleum funk in the air. You leave the house with a friend and simultaneously look at each other and say, "It's back."

It could be the smell of the smoke from the burnoff. It could be the smell of the oil itself. Regardless, it is a unique and specific odor detectable by humans.

If you're saying that no one here could smell the spill on Day One, I agree. That's a little silly. But if you're saying that no one here can smell the results today, I'm calling you out.
posted by komara at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


i thought that the raining frogs thing was a once in a lifetime thing. Does it happen more often? I honestly don't know.
posted by angrycat at 11:30 AM on June 25, 2010


The lifetime of the frogs? Probably.
posted by Seamus at 11:41 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pardon my ignorance, but what was the reasoning for applying the dispersants in the first place?
posted by zsazsa at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


when the lighting strikes .. we'll have mile-high flaming cones of destruction churning across our godforsaken landscape. Shit's gonna be epic.

Smoke on the water and fire in the sky.
posted by stbalbach at 11:52 AM on June 25, 2010


It's pretty clear that dispersant application at depth is the most-likely cause of these plumes now.
i haven't yet seen the confirmation of dispersant in the plumes, do you have a link?

my cockamamie theory on the plumes is that they are the result of the heavier, black crude being belched from the seabed (after having been 'filtered' thru the muddy sand, resulting in the fine droplets)

a pressure fractionation thing is happening at the casing breach 1,000' below the seabed, the lighter fractions of the oil and gas are escaping thru the bop (and being treated with dispersant). but the heavier stuff exits the casing and makes its way up thru the mud.

dispersant in the plumes (the ones near the seabed) would disprove this theory, of course. so a link would be greatly appreciated.

Rains of black oil well inland from the spill, however, I just can't take seriously.
is there a reason you restrict this statement to 'black oil'? are you really saying that these upcoming storms will not deposit oil and or dispersant any more than a few hundred feet inland? what's your worst case scenario? what's your likeliest scenario? is it possible that this will affect drinking water/water treatment plants?
posted by kimyo at 11:53 AM on June 25, 2010


Rains of black oil well inland from the spill, however, I just can't take seriously.

Well, yeah, but I didn't take the point of the video to be any suggestion that it was raining black oil. It doesn't even appear to show that. It seems to me that what's being suggested is some small degree of oil/dispersant contamination in the rainfall. I notice anything in the video (or any suggestion in the reporting on the video) making claims about undiluted black oil raining down. The claim appears to be (and again, I'm pretty skeptical of it myself, but this story has already gotten a lot of traction) that the rainfall is in some small part contaminated with either oil, methane or dispersant--some chemical that accounts for the rainbow-like shimmer visible in the video. I'm curious to know if there's any plausible possibility of trace contamination in the rainfall--the idea of black oil raining down inland or even right over the gulf is absurd. But water from the Gulf definitely does enter weather systems and become precipitation.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:56 AM on June 25, 2010


"I notice anything" --> "I didn't notice anything." ahem. me talk good someday.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:00 PM on June 25, 2010


is there a reason you restrict this statement to 'black oil'?

...the rainfall is in some small part contaminated with either oil, methane or dispersant--some chemical that accounts for the rainbow-like shimmer visible in the video.

"Black" oil is one of the few chemical mixtures which create those rainbow sheens on water seen in the video. It's very unlikely to be any of the other possibilities you mention. Dispersants alone diperse in water to form a white, cloudy solution. Oil and dispersant in water make a brownish to reddish cloudy solution (depending on the amount of oil). Methane in water is either clear, dissolved like sugar in water or a bit cloudy white. It doesn't sheen either. Oil can shed dispersant and recoalesce, some researchers even think that this is probable given long-enough time scales, but the end result is still black oil.

So, yeah, given the observations in this video, in my opinion that's oil. It is however, almost certainly, motor oil dripping off of old truck and car engines, not from the DWH. If there's even a question of that, it would be easy enough, though time consuming and expensive, to fingerprint the oil chemically back to the DWH South Louisiana crude and know for certain.

are you really saying that these upcoming storms will not deposit oil and or dispersant any more than a few hundred feet inland?

Never say never, but that's my feeling, yeah. As I said above, long-range transport in concentrations dangerous to humans hasn't been documented in previous incidents. The EPA is monitoring this very closely though. If I'm wrong, they'll know almost immediately.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 12:35 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Couldn't someone test this by putting out a plate, or a cup, or something (raised off the ground, so that you don't get splashes from the oil-contaminated puddles). Or, hell, just pull a wet leaf off of one of the trees?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:45 PM on June 25, 2010


i haven't yet seen the confirmation of dispersant in the plumes, do you have a link?

See the propublica link to the JAG analysis of the Brooks McCall cruise data I had in my comment above. They are quite definitive in their statement: "The preponderance of evidence... leads us to conclude that DHW-MC252 oil exists in the subsurface waters near the well site... and that this oil appears to be chemically dispersed." (bottom p2).

You can read the report to see why they think that (it's in plain language), but it comes down to two factors: the fluorescence data indicates the oil is dispersed and the LISST particle size measurements show the droplets are very small, too small to be mechanically dispersed oil. The particle size distributions in the sub-surface plumes matches those of chemically dispersed oil samples from other trials and laboratory experiments. It's pretty conclusive evidence, in my opinion.

There doesn't appear to be mechanically dispersed heavy oil as you describe. These things have to be ruled out though, and it's very worth while asking those kinds of questions.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 12:49 PM on June 25, 2010


when the lighting strikes .. we'll have mile-high flaming cones of destruction churning across our godforsaken landscape. Shit's gonna be epic.

Worst-Case Scenario
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Pardon my ignorance, but what was the reasoning for applying the dispersants in the first place?

BP was hoping for fewer damning pictures of oil washing ashore, and that all the dispersed oil would sink and do its damage sight unseen making it harder to pin blame.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:28 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's pretty conclusive evidence, in my opinion.
it's not science. science is taking the samples to the lab and measuring the chemical content (simple, easy, quick, conclusive). their conclusions are drawn in a speculative manner.
    The preponderance of evidence based on careful examination of the results from these four different cruises leads us to conclude that DWH-MC252 oil exists in subsurface waters near the well site in addition to the oil observed at the sea surface and that this oil appears to be chemically dispersed. While no chemical “fingerprinting” of samples was conducted to conclusively determine origin, the proximity to the well site and the following analyses support this conclusion
also, those 4 trips measured only plumes at 140 meters. we need to know what's at the bottom.

a great deal is at stake here, i find your lack of skepticism disturbing.
posted by kimyo at 1:43 PM on June 25, 2010


science is taking the samples to the lab and measuring the chemical content (simple, easy, quick, conclusive)

Does it matter if the lab was on the ship? That's how the particle size and total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) and total volatile organic analysis (VOA) measurements were done. That lab isn't that sophisticated, so the detailed fingerprinting hasn't been done yet. Comprehensive fingerprinting can take weeks to months to do properly. Also, fluorescence is a sort of fingerprinting technique, confirming the oil signature, if calibrated properly.

The DO2 instrument and the fluorsensor were able to draw from the CTD rosette directly. In situ measurements are always preferred if you can get them. Sampling with a bottle and taking to a lab is second-best to in-place measurement. It's not alwyas possible to do so, however.

those 4 trips measured only plumes at 140 meters.

I think you're missing a zero there. They're measuring plumes at depths of 1200 to 1400m farily consistently. They were sampling right to the bottom. See the fluorescence graphs on pages 21 through 45. They were limited to 1300 m or so for the first cruise (May 8-12) but were able to go to the full 1500 m depth for the rest. As the JAG members say in their analysis:

"Fluorometry measurements show a reocurring anomoaly that first appears at appoximately 1000 m and is attenuated between 1300 m and 1400 m deep."

They confirm the fluorometry readings with TP and VOA measurement too. It's not perfect, but three independent measurements all saying the same thing (within the bounds of measurement uncertainty) looks fairly convincing to me.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 2:18 PM on June 25, 2010


As I said above, long-range transport in concentrations dangerous to humans hasn't been documented in previous incidents.

you couch your words like a a true pr spokesdroid.

what's the definition of 'concentrations dangerous to humans'? 'long range transport'? do any of your 'documented previous incidents' include a series of unfortunate hurricanes?

what's your take on the cumulative effect on hvac systems?

The EPA is monitoring this very closely though. If I'm wrong, they'll know almost immediately.

early on (late may), the epa posted fairly high and disturbing numbers for the concentration of voc's in the air (louisiana). have you got a link to current and past air quality measurements? i can't find anything on this. this info should be posted daily and readily available to the public.
posted by kimyo at 2:19 PM on June 25, 2010


This might be a good moment to point out that 350.org is organizing offshore drilling protests tomorrow at a beach near you. (If you're in Brooklyn, as I am, take the F, D, N or Q train to the end of the line at Stillwell Avenue Station and cross the street. 12 noon tomorrow. You can't miss us. Beats sitting at home fuming with anger and sadness.)
posted by finnb at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The possible oil-rain is, so to speak, a drop in the ocean. If this is getting attention it's a good thing humans aren't amphibious, because then we would be outraged.

Oh man, just wait until they figure out the ocean keeps life on the planet going, and that we're fishing and polluting it to death.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't thought about it much, but in scenarios like this I don't think companies should be able to deny access to any aspect involved (see BP hindering people from taking photos of oil-covered wildlife, the whole deal with the 'there are no oil plumes' thing, etc.)

Legally, they can't. The people who have challenged them have sometimes been affirmed by law enforcement, but for the most part seems like people are just letting BP tell them what to do.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:46 PM on June 25, 2010


Gulf oil disaster: Pensacola beach (33 photos)
posted by Twang at 5:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This might be a good moment to point out that 350.org is organizing offshore drilling protests tomorrow at a beach near you. (If you're in Brooklyn, as I am, take the F, D, N or Q train to the end of the line at Stillwell Avenue Station and cross the street. 12 noon tomorrow. You can't miss us. Beats sitting at home fuming with anger and sadness.)

The people in charge in this country don't really fear protests. The largest protests in decades didn't stop the Iraq war.
posted by dibblda at 5:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The people in charge in this country don't really fear anything. It's kind of a problem.
posted by zjacreman at 9:07 PM on June 25, 2010


Surface Oil Trajectories during a Katrina-like Storm (animation, scary)

Destin Beach, FL: Kids gets covered in oil. (video, scary)

Dune......The Water of Life (spice, scary) (isn't kyle maclachlan seriously, the Worst Actor Ever?)
posted by kimyo at 12:09 AM on June 26, 2010


Gulf oil spill: Could 'toxic storm' make beach towns uninhabitable?
    Orange Beach, Ala. - Ron Greve expects the worst is yet to come in the oil spill drama that is haranguing beach towns all along the US Gulf Coast. So, like a growing number of residents, the Pensacola Beach solar-cell salesman took a hazardous materials class and received a “hazmat card” upon graduation.
    Those cards, says Mr. Greve, could become critical in coming weeks and months. In the case of a hurricane hitting the 250-mile wide slick and pushing it over sand dunes and into beach towns, residents fear they’ll face not only mass evacuations, but potential permanent relocation.
posted by kimyo at 1:14 AM on June 28, 2010


« Older Through an RDF, darkly   |   Boggs Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post