Paul Rademacher made a Google Earth tool to help everyone visualize how big the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has gotten by comparing it to areas of the planet they are familiar with.
For example, imagine an oil spill from Nevada to the High Uintas.
This is not looking good.
Estimates of how much oil has been spilled, and the rate of spill rely on guesswork.
BP executives reportedly told the U.S. Congress on May 4 that while the oil is officially estimated to be gushing out at 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) the rate could be as high as 60,000 bpd.
In other words, the widely reported figure of 210,000 gallons per day could be 2,520,000 gallons. It’s likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has already exceeded the Exxon Valdez to become the largest-ever spill in U.S. waters.
There is just no way to overstate the scale of this.
UPDATE: The spill area is now 3,650 square miles, according to the latest estimate from remote sensing.
UPDATE: We now know that the White House covered up the true magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon spill for three weeks.
UPDATE: The Center for Biological Diversity has put up a handy web page to check facts about the Deepwater Horizon spill.
UPDATE: Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) continues to exempt offshore oil drilling permits from environmental review. In fact, since April 20, 2010, MMS has approved 27 new offshore drilling projects.
UPDATE: BP CEO Tony Hayward: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is “relatively tiny,” compared to the “very big ocean.”
UPDATE: Computer analysis of the underwater video of the spill confirms that initial estimates were off by a factor of 10. We now know that the well is putting out as much oil as the Exxon Valdez spill every four days.
UPDATE: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to tourists: “enjoy the beach,” (and please ignore the dead dolphins).