How Big Is the Gulf Oil Spill Really?

Suzanne Murray

gulf oil spill imageWe keep hearing about the BP oil disaster and how it's spreading along the Gulf Coast -- and you've probably seen the devastating photos of oiled birds and the like -- but have you tried to imagine what the spill actually looks like?

There are a few ways you can get an idea.

You can see photo-like images, like the one here, which are taken by the MODIS Rapid Response System on NASA’s Terra satellite. The system generates daily near-real-time imagery of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The image here is from June 19, 2010, with oil spreading northeast from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well (the location of the well is marked with a white dot). North of the well, a spot of black may be smoke; reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that oil and gas continue to be captured and burned as part of the emergency response efforts.

The images are updated twice a day.

You can also visit If It Was My Home, a tool that will help you visualize the oil spill. You can "move" the spill over anywhere in the country to see how big it actually is.

The data the site uses to create the spill image comes from NOAA, which releases a daily report detailing where the spill is going to be within the next 24 hours. The map is updated once a day.

The If It Was My Home site also includes a Gulf Oil Tracker, which is an ongoing tally of how many gallons are leaked each day.




Image via Earth Observatory NASA


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