When the government began releasing estimates of the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil well leak, scientists and environmental groups questioned the figures, certain the leak was larger. New research supports that notion. According to the study, published in Science, some 4.4 million barrels of oil has escaped into the ocean. It is the first independent, peer-reviewed paper on the size of the leak. (doi: 10.1126/science.1195840)

Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, New York arrived at the estimate using a video analysis technique originally designed to study hydrothermal vents. He had spent years developing optical techniques to measure the flow of the underwater plumes that spew buoyant, superheated mineral-rich water. “Those flows are similar to what we were seeing in the oil flow event, and people were interested in what my estimates would be. People were asking what my estimates were, and I suppose I thought it was my duty,” he says.

The story continues at Nature’ blog The Great Beyond.

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