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Earth

Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Below the Gulf's Surface 483

An anonymous reader sends in a NY Times article about the spread of oil from the BP gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. Quoting: "Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given. ... The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. ... [Scientists on the Pelican mission] suspect the heavy use of chemical dispersants, which BP has injected into the stream of oil emerging from the well, may have broken the oil up into droplets too small to rise rapidly. ... Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the plumes."

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