Study Finds Widespread Land Losses From 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Posted: Nov 21 2016, 6:52am CST | by , Updated: Nov 21 2016, 7:05am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Study Finds Widespread Land Losses from 2010 Gulf Oil Spill
A shoreline in a bay affected by 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Credit: Bruce A. Davis, Department of Homeland Security
 

A shoreline alonside a bay in Louisiana experienced widespread land erosion after oil spill incident in 2010

A widespread land loss has been detected in a bay of Gulf of Mexico stretching across southeastern Louisiana. The land has been washed away mainly in the area where oil reached on the shoreline during Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Using airborne remote sensing imagery, a combined team of researchers from NASA and U.S. Geological Survey analyzed the shoreline loss across nearly the entire upper Barataria Bay and found that the land erosion was quadrupled compared to the year before the spill.

The Gulf oil spill is undoubtedly the worst oil spill in the history of United States. The explosion took place on April 2010 and caused the leakage of oil and gas in the ocean floor about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana. By the time the BP pipe was capped, millions of barrels of oil were already entered into the Gulf.

To determine whether the shoreline loss was likely caused by the oil spill, researches also looked at the land loss during Hurricane Isaac in 2012. The team found that the shoreline was largely stable before the spill despite erosion occurring in scattered sections of shoreline. After the oil spill, the erosion pattern changed dramatically and resulted in the widespread sinking of the land. The damage was mostly done along shorelines which were heavily coated with oil.

“Our study uniquely shows that the patterns of shoreline recession seen in this region can be directly related to distinctly different causes: broadly dispersed erosion due to oiling from the Deepwater Horizon spill and enhanced, but spatially limited, erosion due to intense storm impacts.” Principal investigator Amina Rangoonwala from USGS said.

The land being swallowed by the oil spill is unlikely to be regained, particularly in this part of the Gulf where levees prevent the vegetation covers and influx of rocks and sediments coming from the river. This will also alter natural coastal defenses against flooding.

This survey will be used to detect further degradation by analyzing the changes in shoreline, which will ultimately help find ways to mitigate the oil spill effects.

“Through this process, USGS and NASA scientists developed a repeatable, quantitative mapping method that will allow us to monitor shoreline erosion after oil spills in the future,” said study co-author Cathleen Jones from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

“Being able to compare shoreline losses in a year without any major storm to losses both after the Deeper Horizon oil spill and after the hurricane was essential to correlating the erosion of the marsh to its underlying causes.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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