Scientists: Rate Of Oil Spill May Be Far Worse Than Thought

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May 14, 2010 5:09 a.m.

For the second time in the short life of the Gulf oil spill, we’re learning that the scope of the disaster may be drastically worse than previous estimates by the government.

Following the release of underwater video by BP, NPR asked scientists to analyze the footage to try to come up with an estimate of the flow rate:

He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

The New York Times adds another wrinkle:

The figure of 5,000 barrels a day was hastily produced by government scientists in Seattle. It appears to have been calculated using a method that is specifically not recommended for major oil spills.

The original government estimate for the size of the spill was a mere 1,000 barrels per day. That was adjusted to 5,000 per day over a week after the explosion that brought down the Deepwater Horizon.

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