Where did the oil go? Scientists measure the 22-mile-long plume in the Gulf

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researchers detect the oil plume and study its makeup.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is 22-mile-long. (Watch the animation here).

“The plume was not a river of Hershey’s Syrup,” WHOI marine geologist Christopher Reddy said in a statement. “But that’s not to say it isn’t harmful to the environment.”

Now we know that the plume definitely exists.

Reddy wrote in CNN about his discovery:

Our research confirmed the existence of a subsurface oil plume in June that did not come from a natural sea floor oil seep and that was not substantially degraded by deep-sea microbes.

The Woods Hole study found that the oil plume was dispersing rather slowly. It is trapped deep down in the ocean.

The researchers used autonomous underwater vehicles with mass spectrometers to identify molecules in samples.

It's not all oil, but the plume has oil components in it: benzene, toluene, ethybenzene, and total xylenes.

However, the researchers will need a few more months before they can tell us what the entire chemical makeup of this plume is.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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