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article image1 million pounds of carbon released after Gulf of Mexico spill

By Jane Fazackarley     Sep 24, 2011 in Environment
One million pounds of carbon were released into the atmosphere following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill, according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
On April 20th, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men, injured 17 others, and left 53,000 barrels of oil a day leaking into the Gulf of Mexico until the well was finally capped weeks later. To limit the damage to the delicate ecosystems, and to the marine life that have their home in the Gulf of Mexico, and to minimise oil slicks from the water surface, it is estimated that one in twenty barrels of oil were burned.
Using its WP-3D research aircraft, NOAA surveyed the atmosphere surrounding the site of the spill. Researchers from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) were also involved in the research, details were published in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters last week.
In June  NOAA redirected the aircraft to survey the atmosphere above the Gulf spill site. A new stud...
In June, NOAA redirected the aircraft to survey the atmosphere above the Gulf spill site. A new study by NOAA and CIRES scientists found that controlled burns released more than one million pounds of sooty black carbon into the atmosphere.
The researchers say that the 1 million pounds of black carbon (soot) is “roughly equal to the total black carbon emissions normally released by all ships that travel the Gulf of Mexico during a 9-week period”. Carbon can contribute to global warming and continued exposure to it is known to cause health issues such as respiratory problems.
Commenting in a press release, Anne Perring, lead author and a scientist at CIRES and NOAA, said:
“Scientists have wanted to know more about how much black carbon pollution comes from controlled burning and the physical and chemical properties of that pollution. Now we know a lot more."
The researchers also found that the carbon released from the smoke plumes reached higher into the atmosphere than ship emissions would, and they found that the carbon particles were notably larger than other sources of carbon emissions in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a press release Perring said:
“The size and makeup of the black carbon particles determine how fast the particles are removed from the atmosphere by various processes, which ultimately affects their impact on climate."
The press release goes on to state:
"Larger particles are removed from the atmosphere more quickly and thus have smaller climate impacts. And, those same properties of black carbon are important for assessing human health impacts."
A task force was formed to assist with the cleaning up of the Gulf of Mexico. More details about the work of Restore the Gulf can be found here.
More about Gulf oil spill, NOAA, black carbon, Deepwater horizon
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