It’s a well-documented point of modern psychology that people tend to have a hard time wrapping their heads around very large numbers — for instance, really knowing what a million means versus a billion — and the vastness of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill tests our comprehension. What, for instance, does it mean that 2500 square miles of ocean surface are currently covered with oil, or that under the worst case scenario, we’ll lose 1.8 million barrels? In short, how much oil are we losing, in terms we can understand?
Two people have given us tools to help visualize these vast amounts. Google engineer Paul Rademacher, who started the Google Earth browser plug-in and currently works as a Google Maps engineering manager, has harnessed the power of Google Maps to illustrate how much oil was lost in terms of familiar cities: In the graphic above, you can see the DC metropolitan area, and other overlays include New York, San Francisco, and London. You can check out his map tool here.
Information is Beautiful’s David McCandless has given us another, below, which further underscores what the oil loss means in terms of the world’s oil consumption and our remaining oil reserves.