07 June 2010

And this is why we have scientists (and public information officers)

Sifting through my twitter stream today (constantly in the background while I'm working) I see this nugget from Patric Lane at UNC - Chapel Hill:

Tip: if tmrw’s NOAA tests = positive match w/BP well http://ar.gy/Mt, UNC experts can explain oil plume phenom. http://ar.gy/N1less than a minute ago via Argyle Social

And I immediately thought how important it was that we have university-funded scientists who do this sort of thing. Patric linked to a YouTube video of some experiments performed at UNC-Chapel Hill that suggest how undersea oil plumes can form. Apparently it has something to do with whether the oil gushes out "in the form of a turbulent jet" or if it just seeps out, and variations in the density of water based on temperature and salt content.  Here's the video:

I also note these scientists estimate the oil flow rate at 56,000 barrels per day, considerably higher than BP's and the government's estimates.  The "third party" evaluators of this have been very forceful in asserting their opinions on this. In my experience scientists are actually very cautious bunch when it comes to making estimates like this; it's actually quite rare that scientists make such confident statements unless they're very sure of their work.

Last week I suggested university scientists were the real ones holding people accountable to the facts since BP's CEO flatly denied the existence of these plumes while the government was hesitant to acknowledge anything.  At least one scientist expressed grave concerns his work would be censored.

I can say this - if the University of South Florida comes back and confirms what many scientists expect them to, it's another blow to the credibility of those "officially" measuring the spill, and another reason to support your local university scientist.

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