Predicting the Oil Spill With Supercomputers

  • Pete Beckman says even with some of the fastest computers in the world, the model of the spill could take days to finish. (Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory)

Oil from the big spill in the Gulf of Mexico is starting to turn up in places people did not expect.
That’s making it tough for cleanup crews to stay one step ahead of the oil.
Shawn Allee reports some scientists hope supercomputers might help.<

Transcript

Oil from the big spill in the Gulf of Mexico is starting to turn up in places people did not expect.
That’s making it tough for cleanup crews to stay one step ahead of the oil.
Shawn Allee reports some scientists hope supercomputers might help.

Scientists want to put together a 3D picture of what the gulf oil plume looks like, and they’re using new computer code and supercomputers to do it.

The numbers are getting crunched at Argonne national laboratory outside Chicago.
Pete Beckman runs the computing center there.

He says satellites and water samples give us some information, but we could really use a more complete picture.

“If we know for example that, because of eddies and currents, that things will accumulate at a particular map location, well, that’s where you would send the booms to soak up the oil. If you can concentrate your resources in one place, you’re much more effective.”

Beckman says even with some of the fastest computers in the world, the model of the spill could take days to finish.

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

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Environmental Review Halts Ferry

  • The Hawaii Superferry service has been suspended until an environmental impact study can be completed. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been rough sailing for a Superferry that transports passengers and vehicles around the Hawaiian Islands. A lot of people who live in Hawaii, as well as businesses and tourists, depend on the Superferry. But there’s been a lot of concern about the ferry’s impact on the environment. Heidi Chang reports the Superferry is now suspending its service. The last voyage will take place today:

Transcript

It’s been rough sailing for a Superferry that transports passengers and vehicles around the Hawaiian Islands. A lot of people who live in Hawaii, as well as businesses and tourists, depend on the Superferry. But there’s been a lot of concern about the ferry’s impact on the environment. Heidi Chang reports the Superferry is now suspending its service. The last voyage will take place today:

Back in 2007, Hawaii legislators passed a special law that allowed the Superferry to sail between Oahu and Maui, before an environmental study was completed. The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that’s against the law.

Robert Harris is the director of the Sierra Club. It’s one of the groups that challenged the Superferry and the state in court. He’s worried about the impact it might have on traffic and that natural resources could be taken without better oversight.

“One of the first days of operation, some people on Oahu drove a truck over to Maui and loaded up on a bunch of river rocks, and were transporting it back to Oahu, and they were fined, I think significantly for that.”

Harris says the environmental review will also look at whether the ferry might be disturbing whales or transporting invasive species that could endanger native plants and animals.

For The Environment Report, I’m Heidi Chang.

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