By JOHN CAREY, environmental writer
Where is all the oil? Nearly two weeks after BP finally capped the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, the oil slicks that once spread across thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico have largely disappeared. Nor has much oil washed up on the sandy beaches and marshes along the Louisiana coast. And the small cleanup army in the Gulf has only managed to skim up a tiny fraction of the millions of gallons of oil spilled in the 100 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig went up in flames.
So where did the oil go? "Some of the oil evaporates," explains Edward Bouwer, professor of environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Thats especially true for the more toxic components of oil, which tend to be very volatile, he says. Jeffrey W. Short, a scientist with the environmental group Oceana, told the New York Times that as much as 40 percent of the oil might have evaporated when it reached the surface. High winds from two recent storms may have speeded the evaporation process.
Although there were more than 4,000 boats involved in the skimming operations, those cleanup crews may have only picked up a small percentage of the oil so far. Thats not unusual; in previous oil spills, crews could only scoop up a small amount of oil. "Its very unusual to get more than 1 or 2 percent," says Cornell University ecologist Richard Howarth, who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill. Skimming operations will continue in the Gulf for several weeks.
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Edited by Andromedan StarSeed, 28 July 2010 - 09:44 PM.