Mapping the Gulf Oil Spill

NASA AVIRIS map used to asses Gulf Oil Spill

A few weeks ago I came across the Gulf Oil Tracker Widget (below), a widget that observes the real-time spillage of oil in the Gulf. This little widget can be embedded into any website, providing a live window to the heart of the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis.

The video takes a few moments to load, but it is worth the wait. There’s another version of the widget that does not have the video. It loads more quickly and still provides useful live calculations of the spill.This widget comes via PBS and NPR.

Intrigued, I did some research to see how maps are being used in new and traditional media to describe and explain the spill. Many of the maps that I found are doing more than helping the viewer “navigate a space.” Drawing on the ideas of the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, these maps are also “scores” that show events taking place over time.  These visuals are helping us understand how the Gulf Oil Spill is unfolding over days, weeks and months.

Here are the best maps I found online:

Map Time

No matter what your politics or how you feel about Rachel Maddow, you may be surprised to see how much oil production in is going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. I was. This online video of her news feature “Map Time” features a still map that tells a riveting story.

Rachel Maddow Gulf Oil Drilling Map:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Citizen Reporting Smartphone App

This smartphone application allows anyone to post reports on the oil spill: photos, videos and field notes.

Map The Spill

BP Oilspill Multitouch Map

Ideum application for touch tables uses a combination of existing Google maps and photos from a Flickr Group. You may start to see this in museums and science centers that have multi-touch tables.

BP Oilspill Multitouch Map Table Demo


The NASA Satellite images are sophisticated and include detailed descriptions.

NASA Satellite Images

New York Times

The New York Times website has maps about where oil has made landfall, effects on wildlife, live video and more.

New York Times: Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf


The earliest map image is a few days old. It features overlays of NOAA oil spill forecasts, YouTube videos, emergency fishing closures, satellite imagery and more.

Google Map and Gulf Oil Spill Layers

Have you found an interesting Gulf Oil Spill map that is not listed here? Please post it below.