About 88,200 gallons of oil were released from an underwater pipeline operated by Shell about 90 miles off the coast of Louisiana, according to news reports.
Much of the oil has been recovered, and there are as yet no reported impacts on wildlife.
“Hydrocarbons, especially high molecular weight ones, were adsorbed tightly to fine particles.
These fine particles can linger in the water column for weeks.” But a bloom of diatoms, microscopic marine plants, acted as a “dust bunny” to accumulate the particles and carry them below after the diatoms died, he said.
Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, . Navy The paper “provides a likely mechanism for the impact to deep sea corals discovered outside of the depth range and most likely flow path of the Deepwater plume of oil and gas that formed during the spill,” said Chuck Fisher, a marine biologist at Penn State who was not directly involved in the study.
A new study found black carbon left from the burns joined a “dirty blizzard” of contaminants that eventually settled on the seafloor. Fisher’s work documented damage to corals following the spill. Some of the oil was recovered, evaporated or was deliberately burned at the surface.Some researchers have contended that contaminants found on the seafloor could be coming from natural oil seeps.But Yan and colleagues used various “fingerprinting” techniques to demonstrate that the hydrocarbons in the water were derived from crude oil of the kind leaking from the Deepwater Horizon site.More importantly, the presence of barium and the distribution of olefin compounds, two key components in drilling mud, confirmed the contaminants were associated with the spill.“It’s kind of like a smoking gun for the source of the contaminants,” Yan said.Scientists also have known that phytoplankton, microscopic marine plants, play a role in delivering the oil to the seafloor.In the new study, the researchers describe how that happens.“Normally we don’t think of oil as sinking,” said co-author Uta Passow, a biological oceanographer at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara.“People in the past have not really ever considered oil coming to the seafloor, especially very, very deep.The researchers found that the movement of contaminants from the water column to the seafloor was intensified during August and September 2010 by an exceptionally large bloom of diatoms.These phytoplankton produce a mucous, particularly when dying, that acts as a glue for other particles in the water.