Here’s a new word, everybody! Let’s all say it together: Plume. Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue, all slick and oily? Despite what you might think, it doesn’t mean the feather in a dapper man’s cap, or a particularly French shade of plum. It’s the latest in our ongoing explorations with BP etymology! Intrigued? Here’s more.
It seems that this plume of which we speak is a 20-mile-long, mile-wide, 600-feet-thick wave or column or band (maybe reminiscent of feathers, maybe not) of dispersed oil deep in the Gulf. It travels about 4 miles a day and is not simply not cooperating and breaking down the way that scientists and BP folks and government officials hoped that it might. Which means it might be a problem months or years from now, and might kill any number of creatures that live in the deep.
Per the New York Times,
Dr. Camilli, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., said the plume, at the time he studied it, was dissipating so slowly that it could still be in the Gulf many months from now. Assuming that the physics of the plume are still similar to what his team saw in June, “it’s going to persist for quite a while before it finally dissipates or dilutes away,” he said.
Scientists behind the study say the samples were taken in June, and things might be different now. But at the end of the day, this just adds to the general feeling that it’s going to be a long, long time before we know the full impact of the oil spill. And it certainly seems to indicate a definite skepticism with which we should view recent statements that the oil in the Gulf is, like, totally almost gone already or, that, as Tony Hayward once said, “There aren’t any plumes.”
“The idea that 75 percent of the oil is gone and is of no further concern to the environment is just incorrect,” said Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia.
And, from another scientist,
“I expect the hydrocarbon imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable in the marine environment for the rest of my life,” Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University, told Congress in prepared testimony on Thursday. “The oil is not gone and is not going away anytime soon.”
Unfortunately, based on historical precedence, we do tend to believe the bad news. Speaking of which, Transocean, the company that owned the failed oil rig, is now accusing BP of withholding evidence needed to investigate the cause of the spill.