Tag: pollution

Rik van Hemmen's picture
Monday, December 21st, 2015

The Search for Oil Spill Data

The September 2014 issue of the US Navy Institute Proceedings had a one page article named “The Biggest Oil-Spill Culprit? Mother Nature”.

 

This article indicates that the sources of oil pollution in the ocean can be divided as follows:

 

Air pollution 4.2%

Run off 11%

Transportation Accidental Spills 9.8% (Marine)

Transportation normal operation 24.1% (Marine )

Natural Oil Seeps 47.3%

Extraction of Petroleum 2.9%

Jettisoned Fuel 0.6%

 

The article has a nice looking graphic and it provided me a chance to ponder this data.

 

In looking at this, most oil pollution occurs on the ocean. Air and land initiated pollution accounts for only 16%. This seems low to me. Mostly because non-point pollution is so difficult to capture and the world’s coastlines are very, very, long with the majority of the world’s population living near the coasts.

 

That made me wonder as to where this data came from, and I called in our present intern Jose Ramirez. It would be a perfect high school intern job to perform a little detective work on this graphic.

 

Jose performed a tremendous amount of sleuthing in trying to establish the source of the data and this information is provided below.

 

Since the story is long, I will provide the conclusion first:

 

There is no reliable quantitative data on ocean pollution, even in order of magnitude estimates, and don't believe any estimates unless you have been provided solid data

 

The above graphics represents a mishmash of data that is no more recent than the year 2001 and actually is an average of data going back as far as the 1970's. As such, it is disturbing that there is a 2015 article that references a graphic based on a 2003 report that is no better than orders of magnitude correct. So who is at fault here? The scientists attempting to make an estimate of oil polution in 2003? The fact that there is no more accurate more recent information? Or that authors recklessly cite inaccurate 2003 research results in a 2015 article on a subject that is in rapid flux.

 

Bottom line:

 

With regard to quantifying oil pollution in the oceans we are groping in the dark.

 

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