Oil slicks are microscopically thin layers of oil on the surface of the ocean.
A team of U.S. and Chinese scientists mapping oil pollution across the Earth’s oceans has found that more than 90% of chronic oil slicks come from human sources, a much higher proportion than previously estimated.
Their research, published in Science, is a major update from previous investigations into marine oil pollution, which estimated that about half came from human sources and half from natural sources.
“What’s compelling about these results is just how frequently we detected these floating oil slicks — from small releases, from ships, from pipelines, from natural sources such as seeps in the ocean floor and then also from areas where industry or populations are producing runoff that contains floating oil,” said Ian MacDonald, a professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University and a paper co-author.
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