A new federal map platform went online today at www.geoplatform.gov/gulfresponse, to provide a clearinghouse of real-time information about the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. The site is hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and incorporates data from Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, the Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, NASA, US Geological Survey and the Gulf states.
The site builds on NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA), and integrates a wealth of data feeds. Real-time information includes satellite weather, ship locations and buoy readings of wind and current conditions. There are twice-daily feeds of satellite imagery as well as nightly downloads of data from the ships that are actively working in the Gulf.
The site provides a one-stop source for a myriad of readings and projections that include the trajectory of the oil spill, the impacted coast line, the affect of the spill on fisheries, wildlife data (including the number and location of stranded dolphins and sea turtles), and seafood safety.
At a press call for the release, Dave Westerholm, director, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, spoke to the purpose of the site and the overall mission of NOAA. He emphasized that NOAA has been very active in tracking the spill from day one, and that the mission of the agency is to provide an authoritative source of information with the absolutely best science possible.
Michele Jacobi, environmental scientist, with the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration in Seattle manages the site, and provided an overview and walk-through of the site’s functionality. She gave some insight into the different data layers that are currently available as well as an understanding of how the site will be updated as the impacts are more deeply felt onshore. She shared that the site just took a few days to activate given the fact that the architecture was in place, and that it’s simply an extension of existing GIS technology.
The site will continue to evolve with additional data feeds that update some of the baseline readings with current conditions and assessed impacts. The site encompasses the full breadth of the spill and provides an unprecedented level of transparency to the government’s response.
This map is at an unprecedented scale and scope for a public-facing portal. The amount of information that is being provided illustrates the level of seriousness, and the amount of resources, that are being deployed for mitigation.
When asked if the site would include some of the cost figures for the cleanup, the answer was that the site includes links to BP resources for monetary compensation, but that they know of no database at this time that provides a comprehensive cost accounting. The fact that the spill is the responsibility of a corporate entity likely means that this level of detail will not be forthcoming as it has the potential to impact stock price.
This site will be indispensable for efficient response and detailed accounting of the environmental impacts of this disaster. The economic impact and the cost of the recovery are important metrics that are missing, and a detailed recording of these factors are critical inputs for decisions regarding the further exploitation of off-shore resources for years to come.