UPDATE 6/16/10: Wrong again. The NYT says that it’s much higher than was believe just last week:
A government panel on Tuesday released yet another estimate of the amount of oil flowing from BP’s damaged well, declaring that as much as 60,000 barrels a day could be spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
That is roughly 2.5 million gallons of oil a day, and it means an amount equal to the Exxon Valdez spill could be gushing from the well about every four days.
Scientists on Tuesday estimated that the flow rate ranged from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day—up from the rate they issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day.
With BP capturing roughly 15,000 barrels a day, the new estimate suggests that as much as 45,000 barrels a day is escaping into the gulf.
UPDATE 6/11/10: The AP is reporting that perhaps twice as much oil is gushing as thought just a couple of weeks ago:
New figures for the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico show the amount of oil spewing may have been up to twice as much as previously thought, according to scientists consulting with the federal government…
That could mean 42 million gallons to more than 100 million gallons of oil have already fouled the Gulf’s fragile waters…
The spill was flowing at a daily rate that could possibly have been as high as 2.1 million gallons, twice the highest number the federal government had been saying…
So my comparisons, below, may be only about one-quarter of the true magnitude of the disaster.
UPDATE 5/27/10:The NYT reports that the news is much worse:
A federal team created to produce a more precise estimate of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico has determined that the rate is at least twice what was previously acknowledged and possibly five times as much, officials said on Thursday. [Emphasis mine]
It looks like the reality is going to make my analogies (below) look laughably conservative.
UPDATE 5/20/10: The original version of this post was based on a no-outdated estimate of the oil spill’s extent. It’s currently believed to be three times as big. The figures are updated accordingly.
A reader asks “How big is the Gulf oil spill in local terms?” Which is the perfect excuse for me to bust out my math skilz.
The Gulf oil spill—which is currently believed to cover at least 7,500 square miles of ocean — is:
- 222 times as big as the Seattle area’s Lake Washington
- 18,533 times as big as Seattle’s Green Lake
- 144 times as big as Eastern Washington’s Lake Chelan
- 11,566 times as big as the Portland area’s Oswego Lake
- 533 times as big as the Eugene area’s Fern Ridge Reservoir
- 1,200 times as big as Eastern Oregon’s Lake Billy Chinook
- 1,766 times as big as the Vancouver, BC area’s Coquitlam Lake
- 55 times as big as Eastern British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake
- 160 times as big as Idaho’s Lake Couer d’Alene
And here’s a frightening visual perspective on the oil spill’s extent.
N.B. – the comparisons in this post refer to surface area, not volume. The figures also do not account for large quantities of escaped oil that are still under the surface.
Is this only what is seen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico??? How about an assessment of what the real size of the “spill” (since I refuse to call it a spill, but rather an unmitigated disaster, an out of control petroleum volcano– the BP China Syndrome, only the toxic fuel is coming UP rather than DOWN)?We have underwater oil rivers over three miles wide, three hundred feet THICK, and over ten miles long. This is NOT getting the media attention we need to see. It’s this stuff that will really choke the life out of our Gulf by depleting deepwater oxygen. I would take what you have posted above and make it ten times bigger. Much bigger.This oil volcano really could kill the worlds oceans if left unchecked, according to many oceanographers, and BP is dragging its F*&^%$ ass!
Oh, and that link to the size of the so-called spill in comparison to the PNW is several days old now; I believe it has at least tripled in size, particlualrly now that it has entered the Gulf Loop Current that now will take it out around Florida and up to England….
Eric de Place
David,Of all the times I’ve been wrong in my life, this one is the most heartbreaking. I’ve updated the post with new figures that reflect current best estimates of the oil’s extent on the surface, 7,500 square miles.
Spill: “To cause or allow (a substance) to run or fall out of a container”Since I’d hardly call the oil reservoir BP/Transocean/Halliburton was drilling into a “container”, I must agree with David on his assessment. The Exxon Valdez had only a limited amount of oil on board.
From the maps and links you provided it looks like it would cover all of Puget Sound waters plus the Straits of Juan de Fuca and much of the Canadian waters to the north. Of course that is just surface waters.