Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Oil spill in the Gulf

A fascinating look at how bacteria took care of much of the methane pollution from the Gulf Oil spill. Perhaps some chicken little scientists need to realize the earth's complex systems are far more capable of reacting than their small CO2 dominated world views would allow.

Bacteria made quick work of the tons of methane that billowed into the Gulf of Mexico along with oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout, clearing the natural gas from the waterway within months of its release, researchers reported Friday.

John D. Kessler/TAMU

The NOAA ship Pisces (behind the smaller ship) was used for the three research cruises by the team of scientists to sample the submerged plume of methane and oil as it drifted with the prevailing current southwest from the damaged wellhead.

The federally funded field study, published online in the journal Science, offers peer-reviewed evidence that naturally occurring microbes in the Gulf devoured significant amounts of toxic chemicals in natural gas and oil spewing from the seafloor, which researchers had thought would persist in the region's water chemistry for years.

"Within a matter of months, the bacteria completely removed that methane,"said microbiologist David Valentine at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "The bacteria kicked on more effectively than we expected," he said.

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