Home > Data Analysis and Visualisation, science education, science impact > How big is the Gulf Coast oil spill? Visualising 2500 Sq Miles of oil spillage using Google Maps

How big is the Gulf Coast oil spill? Visualising 2500 Sq Miles of oil spillage using Google Maps

Visualizing area is difficult for humans, and even more so when the numbers are very large for something like the big oil slick off the Gulf Coast of the southern USA. Visualisation technology can offer an answer to reduce cognitive load. Here is an amazing utility from Paul Rademacher’s blog. It allows you to superimpose the slick on any geographical location available in Google Maps.

Superimposing it on Dublin shows it covers the entirety of what usually passes for the Dublin commuting hinterland (out to Westmeath, south to Wexford and all the way up to Louth, and crossing the Irish sea, such that large tendrils actually extend around Holyhead in north Wales). That’s a lot of territory. Superimposing it on Athlone covers virtually all of the Irish midlands, extending dramatically west and east of them too.

On April 20th, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon left 17 workers injured and 11 missing and presumed dead. Oil is spilling from a well 5000 feet below sea level, discharging 200,000 gallons of crude oil a day according to the official estimate (though over 2 million a day, by private estimates).

The spill covers at least 2500 square miles of ocean surface.

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