The deliberate burning of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster released 1.4 million to 4.6 million pounds of black carbon into the atmosphere during a nine-week period,
according to a new study by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That amount significantly exceeds the quantity of soot emitted from ships in the Gulf during a typical nine-week period. The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found the average size of the black carbon particles was much large than those emitted by other sources in the Gulf. Black carbon, which is the most light-absorbing particle in the atmosphere, contributes to global warming and is known to pose a health threat to humans. Another new study, conducted by researchers at Auburn University, showed that toxic tar balls found on Alabama beaches this month after being churned to the surface by Tropical Storm Lee had an “essentially identical” chemical composition as oil mat samples collected after the Deepwater Horizon spill, indicating that large amounts of coagulated oil are still present on the sea floor.