It looks like the oil leak caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon could be more than 10 times worse than initially reported.
The first number that was thrown around was that 5,000 barrels of crude oil a day were pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. NPR just reported that after analyzing video of the underwater gusher, some experts estimate that the real total could be closer to 70,000 barrels a day.
Watch the video. This pipe is 20 inches in diameter.
In the short time it will take you to read this post, thousands of gallons of oil will have leaked out.
To make things even scarier (you weren't planning on sleeping well tonight, were you?), we're not even sure where all the oil is going. As the Huffington Post explains, this oil spill is unique among major spills in its extreme depth. The leak is occurring more than a mile under water and some of the oil could settle in the water column far below before breaking the surface of the water. Rick Steiner, a marine conservationist at the University of Alaska, calls this potential river of oil a "subsurface toxic plume".
That toxic plume could stay hidden forever, eventually being broken down by time and bacteria (after silently killing off any sea life unfortunate enough to get in its path) or it could surface and come ashore weeks and even months from now (or a little bit of both). Scientists are building computer models to help predict the action and are watching things closely, but no one actually knows much of anything about what's really going to happen.
What a disaster — in every meaning of the word.