Physics of oil spills explained

Posted to Infographics  |  Nathan Yau

What exactly is going on with all the oil spewing into the Gulf, biologically speaking? MSNBC explains in a series of graphics:

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has released millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the most devastating oil spill in U.S. history. It is clear that the spilled oil will have a large impact on the Gulf coast for years to come, but what happens to the oil in the first hours, days and weeks as it interacts with the surrounding elements?

There are many physical and chemical processes, collectively known as weathering, that change the oil's properties and behavior after it is spilled into the ocean.

It begins with the oil particles spreading, and over months and years, particles eventually sink to the ocean floor and micro-organisms feed on hydrocarbons in the spilled oil. After that, I like to think everyone refuses to buy anything BP-related and the company goes bye-bye.

[Thanks, Jonah]

23 Comments

Favorites

Where Bars Outnumber Grocery Stores

A closer look at the age old question of where there are more bars than grocery stores, and vice versa.

Where People Run in Major Cities

There are many exercise apps that allow you to keep track of your running, riding, and other activities. Record speed, …

Causes of Death

There are many ways to die. Cancer. Infection. Mental. External. This is how different groups of people died over the past 10 years, visualized by age.

Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data

Due to budget cuts, there is no plan for an updated atlas. So I recreated the original 1870 Atlas using today’s publicly available data.