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Footage from Gulf oil spill realises volume estimate

New video footage of the oil that leaked from the damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico has just been released. And the footage has led to the ratification of the estimated volume of oil spilled, initially realised by US federal government advisers.

In total, the estimate of the amount of crude oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico is now 4.4 million barrels. The well leaked uncontrollably from the 22nd April until the 15th July and the oil released was enough to fill four Olympic swimming pools every day.

Using optical plume velocimetry, marine biologists Maya Toistoy and Timothy Crone were able to gauge the velocity of the oil leaking from the damaged blow out preventer after closely examining the footage.

Dr Crone explained:

"Using this optical image analysis method we can apply essentially a conversion factor for what the apparent motion is and obtain what the average velocity is at the opening,

"And if you know the average velocity at the opening, you can then multiply that by the area of the opening and that gets you the volume. The work relies heavily on laboratory experiments which we have used to calibrate this method,"

The team, from Columbia University, reported their findings in the popular ‘Science’ journal.

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