Hot Springs and Oil Spills

It has been a bit over three months since I’ve added a post, a gap that I’ll explain eventually.  But I was inspired yesterday when I searched out what I knew was coming…this opinion piece in the New York Times:

“The Measure of a Disaster…On Thursday, BP was finally forced to acknowledge that far more oil is escaping from its damaged well into the Gulf of Mexico than the oft-repeated estimate of 5,000 barrels per day…”

I knew it was coming for Tim Crone is the third author.  Tim completed his Ph.D. working with my colleague William Wilcock.  The three of us collaborated on one chapter of Tim’s dissertation developing the methods that Tim used in his analysis of the continuing discharge from the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout.  More recently we wrote a paper applying these methods to understand the connection of earthquakes and flow of hot water from seafloor hot springs.

Despite BP’s public stance that knowing the rate of discharge wouldn’t change the response being taken:

“Without knowing the flow’s true magnitude, how can anyone judge the success of any approach? Without determining how much oil is beneath the ocean’s surface and how much is floating toward land, how can we best direct response efforts?”

And so I am glad (and proud) that Tim was able to use our past efforts as a way for helping address this pressing environmental problem.  Indeed, what the four co-authors of the op-ed hold in common are knowledge of disparate tools and approaches that are widely adaptable.   Their experience speaks to the importance of basic research.  Often curiosity-driven, basic research may not always lead somewhere or ever be applied to societal needs.  But when it unexpectedly becomes a foundation of responding to crisis, it validates the investment in expanding knowledge for its own sake.  Equally it speaks to what our “Research I” (Carnegie RU/VH) universities must be doing for the environment, the best science possible.

4 Responses to Hot Springs and Oil Spills

  1. The Destructionist says:

    In the next four weeks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will drop at least 300 points upon growing fears of the ongoing economic crisis looming in the United States and abroad as instability in Greece and other European countries suffer the devaluation of the Euro as it tumbles into “no man’s land.”

    BP’s latest attempt to cap the oil pipeline 5,000 feet underwater (a.k.a. “Top Kill”) using robots will fail. They will then come up with a “new plan” out of thin-air in an effort to seal the pipe and to instill confidence in the public. The Obama Administration will finally step in to take control of the operation, adding much needed resources in an effort to assuage the outrage being felt by Americans everywhere over this environmental catastrophe. A team of engineers and scientists will be sent down to the ocean floor, via bathyscaphe, in order to view the damage head-on and to make assessments as to how to repair the damage.

    Is this a future foretold, or just simple deductive reasoning?

    You decide.

  2. Thanks for the shout out Russ, and thanks for helping to steer me toward a really interesting problem. Indeed, this is a great example of how results from basic research can come to unintended but highly beneficial use.

  3. Ron says:

    Hear hear

  4. […] Rather my thread here returns (mostly) to one theme of my post last week.  I wrote about the work of my friend Tim Crone and his colleagues on determining the quantity of oil discharging from Deepwater Horizon.  A point […]

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