Deepwater oil spill was worse than thought, study says

Fire boat crews battle the blazing remnants of Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010.

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Fire boat crews battle the blazing remnants of Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010.
  • A large part of the spill was invisible to satellites, and yet toxic to marine wildlife.
  • “There was a substantial fraction of oil invisible to satellites and aerial imaging.”
  • The explosion killed 11 people and released 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The worst oil spill in U.S. history was much worse than had been thought, a new study suggests, as the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 unleashed “toxic and invisible” oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“According to our findings, the toxic extent of the spill may have been as much as 30 percent larger than satellite data previously estimated,” said study co-author Igal Berenshtein of the University of Miami, in a statement.

The findings revealed that a large part of the spill was invisible to satellites, and yet toxic to marine wildlife. 

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and releasing 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for a total of 87 days. Oil slicks from the blowout covered an area estimated at 57,000 square miles.

“While the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been extensively studied, several fundamental questions remained unanswered,” Berenshtein and study lead author Claire Paris, also of the University of Miami, told Newsweek. “What was the full extent of the oil spill? Does the satellite footprint account for the entire oil spill extent? And is there a part of the spill that extends beyond the satellite footprint but is still toxic to marine animals?”

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