2011 News & Events

CSD Scientists Earn CIRES Outstanding Performance Award for 2010 Gulf support

6 May 2011

oil slick as seen from aircraft
The oil slick, seen from the window of the Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft. Best known as one of NOAA's "hurricane hunters," the plane was outfitted with chemistry instruments for a mission in California during the spring of 2010. NOAA diverted it to the Gulf for several days in June, as part of a multi-agency effort to asses the atmospheric consequences of the spill. Photo: Dan Lack, NOAA / CIRES

A team of CIRES scientists in the Chemical Sciences Division has been awarded a CIRES Outstanding Performance Award. The award recognizes the team's work during the NOAA P-3 science flights in June of 2010 over the Gulf of Mexico to assess the potential air quality risks posed by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill crisis to workers/citizens in the Gulf and surrounding areas.

The scientists made measurements of gases and particles in the air in and around the site of the oil spill. The work was conducted in collaboration with NOAA CSD colleagues and others, and was carried out under stressful and high-stakes conditions. At the time of the incident, the scientists were engaged in an extensive field campaign in California. They stepped forward to take a temporary hiatus from the California mission and flew across the country to carry out two science flights, before successfully completing their original California mission. They used a suite of complementary instruments on the aircraft to provide the much-needed preliminary analyses that showed health risks to workers in the oil spill area were not as great as originally feared. They demonstrated an innovative new approach for assessing future oil spills, and provided an accurate and independent estimate of the fluid leak rate from the ruptured oil well over a mile below the surface. This significant effort involved coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Health and Safety Administration to share data, compare analyses, and utilize the other agencies' complementary measurements to obtain a broader cross-section of the pollution effects arising from the oil spill. In addition, the team worked closely with petroleum engineers from BP and the federal government, and oceanographers from NOAA and academia to improve our collective understanding of the transport and removal of leaking fluid (oil and gas) in the water column and the atmosphere.

The CIRES researchers recognized with the award are: Ken Aikin, Roya Bahreini, John Holloway, Gerhard Hübler, Dan Lack, Justin Langridge, Andy Neuman, John Nowak, Jeff Peischl, Anne Perring, Ilana Pollack, Harald Stark and Carsten Warneke.