A new study carried out by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, US, published in the journal Science, has revealed that there is a plume of crude-oil based chemicals that extends 35km from the spill site, is 200m high and 2km wide. Apparently, the plume represents a relatively small amount (0.1%) of the total oil spilled when the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010.
According to Dr. Chris Reddy, one of the scientists involved in the research carried out by WHOI, the impacts of the plume on marine life are not yet clear. WHOI did, however, find the plume to be degrading slowly, meaning it would remain in the Gulf for some time – and consequently be transported long distances by currents before being degraded.
These findings go against speculations about oil in the subsurface being easily biodegraded and are indicative of the unknown impacts that may arise in the future. They also give reason to caution against offshore drilling in Canadian waters, particularly fragile ecosystems such as the Arctic.