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bp oil spillOnly the Martians wouldn’t know what the BP Gulf oil spill is all about. It has dominated headlines since late April. The word “˜spill’ seems to be an understated way to describe something that’s an ecological catastrophe.

It is definitely the largest oil spill in U.S history and gushing up the charts to be one of the largest in the world.

Removed far away from the scene, it may not be harming us directly. It is though playing havoc with the environment. And that’s something that binds us all inexplicably, even if it’s something a world away.

So, what does the sea look like when millions of barrels of oil rise to the surface and spread around? The sight is not pretty. The sight of the size cannot be understood from figures in barrels and gallons.

We need a bird’s eye view to comprehend the scale of the disaster and also to understand the areas that are getting affected. Here are a few ways of looking at the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

If It Was My Home

visualize oil spill


For many, The Gulf of Mexico is on the other side of the planet. For us nothing relates better than things that happen close to where we live. This Google Map based website uses data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The data from NOAA estimates the size of the spill and its spread and releases daily reports. You can type in your home location and compare the relative size of the spill with the help of the map. Doing this, I understood that the spill is nearly the size of my home state.

Read a mention about this app in our directory.

A Google Maps engineer has coded a similar Google map app that tells you how big the oil spill is next to your home city.

visualize bp oil spill

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s own geomapped tool has been developed with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior. As the site says, it’s meant to be a “˜one-stop shop’ for spill response information. The information on the map is extremely detailed starting from the wellhead areas to weather information.

If that’s too complicated then the next interactive map could be simpler to understand.

ESRI’s Social Media Map

visualize bp oil spill

ESRI is a global company that focuses on Geographical Information Systems and its related products. One of their geomapping applications with wide usage is ArcGIS. The home site hosts an interactive map on the Gulf oil spill. The map shows the extent of the spill and little location based icons that connect to feeds, YouTube videos, Tweets, and Twitter photos.

For the more ecologically conscious, there’s sensitivity data from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA. The map also links to other shared content like Flickr photos. Little circular “˜seagull’ icons pinpoint the threatened areas.

You can also click on the map and share your own content using the feature icons on the map.

Some other map trackers from the web:

New York Times

Gulf Oil Spill Tracker

Google Crisis Response

bp oil spill map

Google has a whole page devoted to the BP oil spill. You can download Google Earth KML files and view them on Google Earth to get a fair idea. For instance, one of the files relates to the worst oil spills in history. You can also filter all the recorded oil spills using a moving slider timeline. The Gulf War oil spill has a pretty large circle around it being the second largest oil spill yet. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill shows a rapidly moving counter as oil continues to gush into the oceans.

News, resources and how to help links are handily provided on the site. Clicking on the Real Time updates on Google Search saves you the bother of a Google search.

You can also go straightaway to YouTube videos covering the oil spill. On YouTube, check out this time lapse video from NASA.

NASA Imagery Of Oil Spill

bp oil spill map

Satellite imagery from NASA takes our outlook beyond Earth maps and gives it to us from the eyes in the sky. This is an index of everything that NASA has captured from space.

Deepwater Horizon Response On YouTube

bp gulf oil spill

Staying back on YouTube, catch the YouTube channel of the organization that’s coordinating the emergency efforts. The main website and the YouTube channel are maintained by the Unified Commands Joint Information Center (JIC), whose role is to give the public reliable, timely information about the response. The home website gives you the absolute dope for staying current with the crisis. You can catch what the underwater video streams sent out by BP’s remotely operated vehicles too.

As these web links show, there is no dearth of news. What’s lacking is some good news on the gusher. As efforts go on, let’s hope we don’t get to see a deepening oil crisis of a different kind. Are you in the know about the BP Oil Spill?

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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  1. DarkOverlord
    July 16, 2010 at 5:26 am

    7 ways:

  2. TechGyo
    June 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Oh grt. now i realize d magnitude

  3. John
    June 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Stunning graphics that really hit home. The more ways we can get out the news of this epic catastrophe, the better. Great work!

  4. jschall
    June 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Here's another way to visualize the BP disaster - The BBC has an animated slide show:

    - Jeff

  5. Anonymous
    June 16, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Here's another way to visualize the BP disaster - The BBC has an animated slide show:

    - Jeff