Just How Big is the BP Spill?


Sometimes problems are so big, it’s difficult to describe them with numbers. For me that’s been the case with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For example, tonight I read a USA Today story which reported that the spill covers 29,000 square miles.

How big is that exactly?

Paul Rademacher, has created a site using the Google Earth API to let you overlay the current size of the spill area on top of any city in the world.

Check out your home town and imagine how much of your community would have to be covered in oil to be equal in size to the BP spill in the Gulf. That’s when it hit home for me — this kind of visual comparison really was extremely effective communication.

Rademacher’s site made me wonder what about what else you could use Google Earth to communicate. Perhaps the size of the path of devastation of a tornado or hurricane? The total amount of vacant square footage of all the Class A office space in New York? The total skiable terrain in Colorado last winter?

Maybe this makes sense to me because I’m a visual learner, but I don’t think I fully understood the scope of the BP spill until I stumbled upon Rademacher’s Google Earth-based site. What would you want to use Google Earth to help you communicate?

Photo credit: futureatlas.com, Flickr

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