Incident Responses for June 2020

Posted Thu, 07/09/2020 - 14:39

Every month our Emergency Response Division provides scientific expertise and services to the U.S. Coast Guard on everything from running oil spill trajectories to model where the spill may spread, to possible effects on wildlife and fisheries and estimates on how long the oil may stay in the environment. This month OR&R responded to 20 incidents, including oil discharges, sunken vessels, and other pollution-related incidents.  

Be Prepared When Wildfires Threaten

Posted Tue, 07/07/2020 - 00:37
By Charles Grisafi, Office of Response and Restoration Disaster Preparedness Program

Wildfires can happen anywhere and anytime, as we’ve seen with recent wildfires across the country, from the Florida Everglades to the coast of California. A wildfire is an unplanned fire often caused by humans or lightning, that starts to burn in a natural area, with risk increasing in periods of little rain and high winds. Though the Office of Response and Restoration does not respond to wildfires, it’s critical that both OR&R and the National Ocean Service are prepared for the threats that wildfires can pose to our mission critical operations and personnel.

Essential Functions: What Makes Them Essential?

Posted Tue, 06/30/2020 - 20:59
By Alyson Finn, Office of Response and Restoration Disaster Preparedness Program

Everyday, organizations, communities, and government institutions provide critical services that are essential to our everyday life. But what would happen if we didn’t have access to these services? What would life be like? Hospitals, banks and grocery stores all provide essential services that we, the American people, depend on. The ability to continually perform such services is an important component of resilience and requires extensive continuity planning.

Clean up spilled oil at all costs? Not always

Posted Fri, 06/26/2020 - 03:57

This week, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration is looking at some common myths and misconceptions surrounding oil spills, chemical releases, and marine debris.

The images of an oil spill—brown water, blackened beaches, wildlife slicked and sticky—can create such an emotional response that it  leads to the myth that oil is so hazardous it’s worth any and all environmental trade-offs to get it cleaned up.

Minds Behind OR&R: Meet Environmental Scientist Laurie Sullivan

Posted Tue, 06/23/2020 - 17:57
By Megan Ewald, Office of Response and Restoration

This feature is part of a monthly series profiling scientists and technicians who provide exemplary contributions to the mission of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). In our latest "Minds Behind OR&R," meet environmental scientist Laurie Sullivan.

How to Test for Toxicity

Posted Fri, 06/19/2020 - 07:11
By Alan Mearns

What is toxicity? Most definitions would explain it as the degree to which a substance is poisonous.

Knowing a substance’s toxic levels is particularly important to federal agencies that use the information to test potential risks posed to people’s health and to the environment.

So how do scientists know how toxic something is and whether or not that substance—be it oil, chemical treating agents or toxic metals—will be toxic when introduced into marine or coastal waters?

On Sea Turtles, Seaweed, and Oil Spills

Posted Tue, 06/16/2020 - 12:22

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, perches calmly among a floating island of brown seaweed called sargassum. Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird? Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the sargassum's tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, which keep everything afloat. Open ocean stretches for miles around the free-floating sargassum mats — which provide critical refuge to juvenile sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico — as they drift slowly with the currents. Unfortunately, these currents can just as easily push floating oil. This puts sargassum and all the creatures it supports in the path of oil spills.