How much oil is leaking from the wreck of the Deepwater Horizon? Five thousand barrels a day? Or a whole lot more? And how would we ever know?
Well, David Valentine of the UC Santa Barbara writes in a Nature op-ed that were we to measure methane in the waters around the spill we'd know. That's because some 40 percent of what's leaking is likely to be methane—most of it dissolved in the water.
Valentine calculates that if 5,000 barrels a day were leaking then some 7,500 tons of methane would have entered the Gulf in 27 days, driving methane concentrations to three times normal levels in a 2,000-square-mile, one-kilometer-deep stretch of the Gulf. He recommends that US research vessels start taking these measurements as an accurate means to assess the spill.
BTW, I posted a blog a day or two ago about Valentine's work with dispersants and microbes, and all the bad potentials when the two meet.
H/T Roberta Kwok at Journal Watch Online.
The op-ed: Valentine, D. 2010. Measure methane to quantify the oil spill. Nature 465(7297), 421. DOI: 10.1038/465421a.