A view of response ships at the source of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a month after the rig exploded and sank, tragically claiming the lives of 11 people. (NOAA)

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform tragically killed 11 workers, and started the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA was on the scene from the earliest moments of the crisis, bringing more than 25 years of experience protecting and restoring our coasts from oil spills.

As the lead science agency for coastal oil spills, NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration provided mission-critical information to guide the emergency response, the natural resources damage assessment and the restoration plan. NOAA scientists continue their commitment to the Gulf as we report on the short and long term effects to the fish, wildlife and habitat injured by the spill, as well as the lost recreational use along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Florida.

On April 4, 2016, the court approved a settlement with BP for natural resource injuries stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This settlement concludes the largest natural resource damage assessment ever undertaken. We will now begin implementing restoration as laid out in the Trustees' comprehensive restoration plan. Under this settlement, BP will pay the Trustees up to $8.8 billion for restoration to address natural resources injuries and lost recreational uses. Natural Resource Damage Assessment from the Deepwater Horizon Trustee Council and access NOAA data and information related to the spill, including science studies about the long term environmental impacts.

NOAA, Deepwater Horizon Trustees Announce Draft Restoration Plans for Gulf of Mexico Following 2010 Disaster

NOAA and the other Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees have released 15-year comprehensive, integrated environmental ecosystem restoration plans for the Gulf of Mexico in response to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill.

NOAA Studies Documenting the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Tied to Further Impacts in Shallower Water Corals, New Study Reports

A study published in October 2015 reveals that the footprint of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill extends to coral communities in shallower Gulf waters, up to 67 miles from the wellhead.

Agreement in Principle with BP to Settle Civil Claims for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

BP announced on July 2, 2015 that it has reached an agreement in principle with the United States and the five Gulf states to settle the civil claims against the company arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy.

BP has announced the value of the settlement to be approximately $18.7 billion.

Five Years After Deepwater Horizon, How Is NOAA Preparing for Future Oil Spills?

Keeping up with emerging technologies and changing energy trends helps us become better prepared for the oil spills of tomorrow.

That means being ready for anything, whether spills stem from a derailed oil train, a pipeline of oil sands, or a cargo ship passing through Arctic waters.

What Have We Learned About Using Dispersants During the Next Big Oil Spill?

In the middle of the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a scientific debate emerged about the role of chemical dispersants in response to the spill.

Five years later, we know a lot more, but many of the scientific, public, and policy questions remain open to debate.

NOAA Builds Tool to Hold Unprecedented Amounts of Data from Studying an Unprecedented Oil Spill

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the government began planning a lot of scientific studies and collecting a lot of data on the spill's impacts.

Learn about the digital solution NOAA created to gather together and organize what would become an unprecedented amount of scientific data from this spill.

Recalling the Early Hours—and Challenges—of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

NOAA science adviser Charlie Henry received an urgent phone call in the middle of the night on April 20, 2010.

He was told of an explosion and fire on the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

This began months of unusual challenges and stresses that Henry and his NOAA colleagues will never forget.

In Mapping the Fallout from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Developing One Tool to Bring Unity to the Response

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NOAA debuted the online mapping tool ERMA, which organized crucial response data into one common picture for everyone involved in this monumental spill.

Learn how NOAA developed this pivotal piece of technology under the pressure of a real emergency.

In the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before

Dolphins washing up dead in the northern Gulf of Mexico are not an uncommon phenomenon.

What has been uncommon, however, is how many more dead bottlenose dolphins have been observed in coastal waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the five years since.

At the Bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Corals and Diversity Suffered After Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In the five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists have been studying just how this oil spill and response affected the deep ocean and seafloor of the Gulf.

What they found was the footprint of the oil spill on the seafloor, stamped on sickened deep-sea corals and out-of-balance communities of tiny marine invertebrates.

Latest Research Finds Serious Heart Troubles When Oil and Young Tuna Mix

NOAA led an international team of researchers in a study which showed heart failure and other severe deformities when developing tuna were exposed to oil.

This study is part of ongoing research to determine how the waters, lands, and life of the Gulf of Mexico were harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and response in 2010.

Explore Oil Spill Data for Gulf of Mexico Marine Life With NOAA GIS Tools

How would anyone start to dig through all the scientific information gathered from the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

Learn how to use these two map-based NOAA tools to start exploring!

Births Down and Deaths Up in Gulf Dolphins Affected by Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

A new study led by NOAA outlines a trend of reproductive failure and death in Gulf bottlenose dolphins over nearly five years of monitoring after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Of the 10 Barataria Bay dolphins confirmed to be pregnant during a 2011 health assessment, only two successfully gave birth to calves that have survived.

NOAA Launches New Data Management Tool for Public Access to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Data

A flexible new data management tool—known as DIVER and developed by NOAA to support the damage assessment for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill—is now available for public use.

You can use it to find and download environmental impact data from the Gulf of Mexico.

Largest Oil Spills Affecting U.S. Waters Since 1969

Since the iconic 1969 oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California, there have been numerous oil spills over 10,000 barrels which affected U.S. waters.

The largest of which was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

See a map showing the largest oil spills in U.S. waters.

Who Is Funding Research and Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there have been various additional investments, outside of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, in more broadly learning about and restoring the Gulf of Mexico.

These distinct efforts to fund research and restoration in the Gulf have been sizable, but keeping track of them can be, frankly, a bit confusing.

Study Shows Gulf Dolphins in Poor Health following Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a team of researchers performed comprehensive health assessments of bottlenose dolphins living in Louisiana's Barataria Bay, which was oiled in the spill, and Florida's Sarasota Bay, which was not.

Read a Q&A with two of the NOAA scientists involved and watch a video to learn what their findings mean for dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

Latest NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Spike in Gulf Dolphin Deaths

What has been causing the alarming increase in dead bottlenose dolphins along the northern Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

Scientists have found even more evidence connecting these deaths to the same signs of illness found in animals exposed to petroleum products, as reported in the peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE.

Five Years After Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Research Reveals Oil Damages Fish Heart Development

NOAA research following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the northern Gulf of Mexico examined the potential for the spilled crude oil to damage the developing hearts of fish and thus impact fish populations and commercial fisheries.

Studies found that concentrations of crude oil measured in Gulf spawning habitats could cause cardiac-related deformities in species including bluefin and yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi.

Attempting to Answer One Question Over and Over Again: Where Will the Oil Go?

Five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we are looking at various topics related to the response, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment science, restoration efforts, and the future of the Gulf of Mexico.

First, take a look at the complex science behind answering what seems like a simple question during oil spills: Where will the oil go?

Summarizing Five Years of NOAA Research on the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Dolphins

A number of studies to understand impacts on bottlenose dolphins have been conducted over the past five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The studies have included recovery of dead stranded dolphins and analysis of their tissues, as well as photographic monitoring, remote tissue sampling, and even capture-release health assessments of live dolphins.

Assessing the Impacts from Deepwater Horizon

April 4, 2017 - The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster spread spilled oil deep into the ocean’s depths and along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, compromising the complex ecosystem and local economies. The response and the natural resources damage assessment were the largest in the nation’s history.

Deepwater Horizon: Response in the Midst of an Historic Crisis

April 3, 2017 - Deepwater Horizon was the largest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history, requiring the largest response effort, largest natural resources damage assessment ever conducted, and the largest civil settlement with a single entity in federal history. We explore the work of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and partners in responding to the spill and what was learned.

Coping in the Aftermath of Deepwater Horizon

By Tara Skelton, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium

Jan. 25, 2017 - Ever wonder about mental health issues in communities recovering from a man-made disaster?

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coastal Salt Marsh Habitat

Nov. 23, 2016 -- The 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform triggered a massive oil release polluting over 1,300 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. The harm from the spill to coastal salt marsh habitat was extensive, and in some instances, permanent.

Closing Down Damage Assessment After Deepwater Horizon

April 5, 2017 - Federal and state agencies worked quickly to scale up the emergency response, clean up the spill, mount a large-scale effort to assess the injuries to wildlife and other natural resources, and record how these lost resources adversely affected the public. When the cleanup was finished, and the injuries were determined, another challenge came: NOAA and other agencies had to close down the largest damage assessment field operation in the nation’s history.