Infographic of the Day: The Physics of Oil Spills

The oil streaming into the Gulf isn’t just pouring from the ocean floor and causing havoc–along the way, it’s triggering myriad chemical interactions.

You hear some of these interactions mentioned in news reports–things such bio-degradation and oxidation. But they’ve never been explained as elegantly as in these infographics by MSNBC.

Physics of Oil Spill Infographic

The design, obviously, is a bit perfunctory. But the content is superb, seeking to answer what happens to the oil in the days, weeks, and years following the initial spillage.

Up top, to the right, you can see the various processes affecting the spilled oil, and the layers of ocean at which they take place. To the left of that chart, you can see a streamgraph showing which processes occur over time. For example, emulsification, whereby the oil mixes with the water, occurs in the days following a spill; bio-degradation happens in the span of months and years after.

The chart also has detailed graphs illustrating each process. Evaporation:

Physics of Oil Spills infographic


Bio degradation:

oil spill infographic

Check out the entire interactive graphic here.