Large, underwater hydrocarbon Gulf plume's origin mapped

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Washington, Aug 25 (ANI): Scientists have mapped the origins of the 1.2-mile-wide, 650-foot-high plume discovered in the Gulf.

"These results create a clearer picture of where the oil is in the Gulf," said Christopher Reddy, a WHOI marine geochemist.

The researchers measured petroleum hydrocarbons in the plume and, using them as an investigative tool, determined that the source of the plume had to be the Deepwater Horizon blowout at the Macondo well.

And if the rate of microbial degradation or the dilution of the plume does not accelerate, it was possible that the plume had and could persist for some time.

The scientists accomplished the feat using two advanced technologies: the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and a type of underwater mass spectrometer known as TETHYS (Tethered Yearlong Spectrometer).

"We've shown conclusively not only that a plume developed, but also defined its origin and near-field structure," said Richard Camilli.

"In June, we observed the plume migrating slowly [at about 0.17 miles per hour] southwest of the source of the blowout," Camilli added.

However, Reddy added that they didn't know the toxic effects of the plume yet. That didn't rule out the possibility of danger due to its presence.

Sentry was able to criss-cross plume boundaries continuously 19 times to help determine the trapped plume's size, shape, and composition. TETHYS, on the other hand, helped them measure conductivity, temperature, and depth.

The researchers detected a class of petroleum hydrocarbons at concentrations of more than 50 micrograms per litre.

It may be "a few months of laboratory analysis and validation," Reddy concluded, before they know the entire inventory of chemicals in the plume. (ANI)

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