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Local Middle School Students Learn About Oil Spills in the Arctic

JANUARY 13, 2020 — On January 8, a group of about 30 students from Billings Middle School in Seattle, Washington, visited the NOAA Sand Point campus to learn about impacts of climate change on the oceans, including the impact of oil spills due to increased transportation and oil exploration.

Man speaking to children seated at a table.
OR&R's Doug Helton speaking to middle school visitors. Image credit; NOAA.

OR&R Scientific Support manager Doug Helton spoke to the group about Arctic navigation and emergency preparedness after a brief overview of OR&R’s role in responding to oil spills, including the use of trajectory analysis, ERMA and other tools. Using several maps and graphics, Doug explained that as ice in the Arctic decreases, opportunities for drilling and shipping have opened up, making it more likely that oil spills could occur in the region. Because of the harsh and isolated conditions, this creates unique challenges for responders. The group learned about some of the sensitive species living in Arctic waters that could be adversely impacted. Doug also covered how spilled oil behaves differently in extremely cold temperatures. The students and their teachers asked lots of good questions, and left NOAA with a good start to their inquiry into climate change over the next few months.

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Last updated Friday, January 17, 2020 3:33pm PST