(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Science is one of those subjects I’m passionate about. Without Science, we’d still be casting spells, and coaxing The Fates.
If we’re not careful, we may be headed back to those “bad old days”.
Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill
Justin Gillis, NYTimes – 05/19/2010
“It seems baffling that we don’t know how much oil is being spilled,” Sylvia Earle, a famed oceanographer, said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. “It seems baffling that we don’t know where the oil is in the water column.”
The administration acknowledges that its scientific resources are stretched by the disaster, but contends that it is moving to get better information, including a more complete picture of the underwater plumes.
“We’re in the early stages of doing that, and we do not have a comprehensive understanding as of yet of where that oil is,” Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator, told Congress on Wednesday. “But we are devoting all possible resources to understanding where the oil is and what its impact might be.”
Maybe NOAA was too busy, texting BP?
The Scientists continue their critique on the LACK OF Science being used to measure, monitor, and mitigate those Gushers in the Gulf …
[The NYTime story continues…]
Rick Steiner, a marine biologist and a veteran of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, assailed NOAA in an interview, declaring that it had been derelict in analyzing conditions beneath the sea.
Mr. Steiner said the likelihood of extensive undersea plumes of oil droplets should have been anticipated from the moment the spill began, given that such an effect from deepwater blowouts had been predicted in the scientific literature for more than a decade, and confirmed in a test off the coast of Norway. An extensive sampling program to map and characterize those plumes should have been put in place from the first days of the spill, he said.
“A vast ecosystem is being exposed to contaminants right now, and nobody’s watching it,” Mr. Steiner said. “That seems to me like a catastrophic failure on the part of NOAA.”
WOW. Sounds like another Scientist, kind of passionate about Science. Perhaps that’s because Rick Steiner has first-hand experience with what foot-dragging and excuses, will turn into, in these kind of emergency circumstances.
Afterall we only have one planet, we should give it the respect it deserves. We should base our national goals and policies, on the best Science and Technology available. Haphazard approaches, rarely turn out well.
Or perhaps Ms. Earle and Mr. Steiner simply expected more of a Science-based approach, from an Administration, that claimed to be all about Science …
Oil Spill Tests Obama Vow To Use Scientific Approach
by Ari Shapiro, NPR — May 21, 2010
For weeks, BP and the Coast Guard estimated 5,000 barrels of oil were spilling into the Gulf each day. Then BP released video footage that independent scientists used to come up with a much higher estimate.
Government scientists who had that footage at least a week before the public didn’t change their estimate until Thursday, when the Coast Guard acknowledged that the initial figure was too low.
In a teleconference, Jane Lubchenco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] said a group of government scientists came together just this week to seek a scientifically defensible measurement.
That answer was not enough for some scientists who were expecting the data-driven, science-based approach this White House promised.
Less than two months into the his presidency, Obama issued a presidential memorandum on scientific integrity
“to ensure that in this new administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science,” he said, “and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions.”
Obama set a 120-day deadline for a directive to lay out the details of the science policy. The document is now almost a year late.
I remember that Science speech. It gave me hope. It made me proud.
Lately it seems though, such Science-base aspirations, have been eclipsed by other more pressing issues, like putting out ‘daily fires’ and tactical emergencies.
Hmmmm … shouldn’t Fire Drill management be based on the ‘soundest science’ too? … One wonders.
Some principles … should be timeless …
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary — March 9, 2009
SUBJECT: Scientific Integrity
Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.
The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.
[… more good stuff ]
Well let’s hope President Obama, has heard the din and roar, of so many Scientists, relegated to the ‘BP Crisis Management’ sidelines …
Obama now wants daily reports on oil spill from BP
Lynn Herrmann — May 21, 2010
The White House has begun a more direct approach with BP by requesting the company provide daily updates to its website. Speaking on behalf of the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday said: “We think that is what the company owes, again, both us and the American people, as we work through our response and as the public has questions about their operations.”
Feds order BP to put all Gulf oil spill data on Internet
By David Hammer, The Times-Picayune — May 20, 2010
A joint letter from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson blasts the company, saying its efforts to keep the public and government officials informed of their efforts to contain the spill “have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness.”
The letter demands that BP create a website within 24 hours and post on it a copy of the letter from Homeland Security and EPA, as well as the company’s monitoring plans.
The letter lays out a specific format for the website and says that within 48 hours BP must post “all environmental…, analytical data from samples of oil, dispersant” and other samples related to the spill, as well as location of boom, oil plume trajectories and the locations of dispersants.
Hey that’s a great start! Hooray for More Data!
Getting uploadable, ‘standardized data’ — IS the Fuel of Scientific Analysis. … Why don’t all Govt Agencies do this? (well, many DO, actually … check each Dept Web site.)
Gibbs said it right: “BP owes both us and the American people” …
to disclose publicly, all its data.
I only hope, that BP will do so, promptly. (What’s the ‘stick’ in this equation, anyways?)
and I hope the relevant Govt Experts will take the time to “put that data to work”, to protect what’s left of our previous, dwindling, natural resources.
Because if Science really DID drive things around here, we’d probably would have seen from the beginning, a more urgent Administration focus on the need to measure, monitor, and mitigate those Gushers in the Gulf …
===== appendixes ======
(ie. extra credit)
There was a research trail left in that intro NYTimes article — pointing to established Scientific Studies on the existence and behavior of underwater Oil Plumes, that occur with such Deep Water gushers:
Scientists Fault Lack of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill
By Justin Gillis, NYTimes — May 19, 2010
Scientists have long theorized that a shallow spill and a spill in the deep ocean – this one is a mile down – would behave quite differently. A 2003 report by the National Research Council predicted that the oil in a deepwater blowout could break into fine droplets, forming plumes of oil mixed with water that would not quickly rise to the surface.
That prediction appeared to be confirmed Saturday when the researchers aboard the Pelican reported that they had detected immense plumes that they believed were made of oil particles. The results were not final, and came as a surprise to the government. They raise a major concern, that sea life in concentrated areas could be exposed to a heavy load of toxic materials as the plumes drift through the sea.
Here are some key excerpts from that National Academy of Sciences study.
Perhaps NOAA officials might want to bookmark it for ‘future reference’ ?
Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects
For most substantial releases, the discharged hydrocarbon will form a rising plume shortly after release, which is analogous to the previously described plume that forms in a shallow-water release. However, in deep water, the plume eventually entrains so much dense water that the aggregate density of the oil-gas-hydrate-seawater suspension is no longer buoyant.
Once the plume sheds some of its heavier components, it may re-form as the plume ceases to rise, and “mushrooms.”
This process can occur numerous times (known as peeling).
Whether or not a given plume reaches a terminal level will depend on
— the depth of discharge,
— the plume buoyancy (flow rate and composition of oil, gas, and hydrates), and
— the strength of the ambient stratification.
Most substantial releases will reach a terminal depth within an order of 100 meters of the release orifice although it can be much higher especially if the stratification is weak.
Despite the fact that surface slicks capture the public attention, there are a substantial percentage of accidental spills that occur beneath the surface, typically from the seafloor. Examples include blowouts of exploration wells, pipeline ruptures, and shipwrecks.
The release of oil beneath the surface introduces a number of complications compared to oil released at the surface. From the standpoint of fate the most important complications are:
— enhanced dissolution in the water column and,
— perhaps, emulsification.
If natural gas is present it will tend to dissolve rapidly during the rise through the water column.
—– (extra credit 2) ——-
Jane Lubchenco teleconference (NOAA administrator) Audio Conference call, today
United States Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery
Deepwater Horizon Response 100520-G-0000X-001
I couldn’t bear listening to that 30 minute audio, all the way to the end.
The amount of hemming and hawing about the need to/ and lack of accuracy of/ measuring the underwater spill — kind of left me …
with the urgent need to write this piece.
I hope NOAA administrator Lubchenco, manages to “get that team of hers together”, sometime real soon.
Because that “Plume Phase”, is probably reaching its Terminal dispersal zone, and “perhaps those topside Slicks ARE edging into the ‘Loop Current’ as well “, as she so carefully, theorizes —
Just maybe, we should be doing some serious MONITORING out there, already?
Just maybe … I’m just saying …
Maybe those Outraged Scientists, HAVE A POINT.
(Scientists are People too, afterall.)