National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the disastrous BP oil spill. Triggered by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, the tragedy took the lives of 11 people and continues to threaten the animals and ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Two years later, TNR takes a look at some of the animals that continue to be affected by the spill, which spewed about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water. DolphinsIn the two years since the BP spill, over 600 dolphins have been found washed up on Louisiana beaches: 95 percent are already deceased.
This past weekend, tornadoes battered a number of states around the country, killing over 40 people in 15 states, including 24 in North Carolina. Experts believe the weekend could be one of the worst three-day tornado outbreaks in the country's history. Unfortunately, tornadoes are difficult to study: though clues are available in local atmospheric data, tornadoes are so spontaneous that tracking and taking measurements from them is problematic.
So what happened to the millions of barrels of oil that leaked out of BP's Macondo well? Where did it all go? Here's a chart from a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (click to enlarge): Rough summary: About one-quarter of the oil is still bobbing on the sea surface or washed ashore. Another quarter has been dispersed into microscopic droplets, either by artificial chemicals or natural processes. And another quarter has been "dissolved." All told, just 25 percent has been physically removed from the Gulf ecosystem. The rest is still lurking... somewhere.
Sometime this summer, the Senate will have a debate over an energy bill. What kind of energy bill? That's still the unanswered question. But the timing, at least, is propitious: After all, 2010 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, and the summer months should be particularly unpleasant. And studies have shown that people are, predictably, far more receptive to talking about global warming during the sweltering heat than during the winter months.
The Gulf hardly needs further battering, but this week is the beginning of hurricane season in the Atlantic, and NOAA is forecasting that this could be an especially intense year (that's partly because El Niño, which tends to suppress Atlantic hurricanes, appears to be dying down). So what does that mean for the oil spill? This NOAA fact sheet lays out a few predictions. On the bright side, the high winds and waves can help stir up the oil in the ocean and speed along the biodegradation process. That helps.
A new study about how methane stores in the Arctic seabed are "destabilizing and venting" is getting a lot of attention. Here's a write-up from the Times: Climate scientists have long warned that global warming could unlock vast stores of the greenhouse gas methane that are frozen into the Arctic permafrost, setting off potentially significant increases in global warming.
Here's a handy animated map from NOAA showing all the places on the planet where it's unseasonably warm and unseasonably cool right now. Curiously, the freak cold seems to be occurring everywhere major media centers are located—the northeastern United States, Europe, Japan—so the chilly weather's grabbing all the headlines. But it's anomalously warm just about everywhere else in the world, especially the Arctic. (For more on the overall trends, see Joe Romm's post.) Oh, there's one other big exception: It seems to be anomalously cold in Antarctica right now.
A few more things to say about those hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia. First, the latest news: It looks like the head of the university's Climate Research Unit (CRU), Phil Jones, is stepping aside temporarily while the entire matter comes under independent review. Seems fair. As I noted in my last post, some of Jones's e-mails sounded awfully unprofessional, especially the ones where he told other researchers to delete their e-mail correspondence.
There's no reason to doubt Sarah Palin's sincerity when she talks about her commitment to family and--more specifically--special-needs kids. When she introduced her son, who has Down syndrome, to the audience at the Republican convention, the family tableau drew cheers. And she issued a promise. "To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you," she told the crowd.