While efforts to mop oil off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico stretch into a fifth week, more potentially hazardous oil could be lurking below the surface in large oil plumes, scientists said Monday - a previously-unseen phenomenon they are eager to learn more about.
"Nothing like it has really ever been seen in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico before," Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, told CNN's "American Morning." "It's not only a large feature, but it's a very complex feature. There's a lot of vertical structure to it."
But the plumes could mean that even more oil has gushed into the Gulf from an undersea well than previously thought, and the contaminants under the surface could pose additional environmental hazards.
At least one of the plumes is thought to be enormous. Vernon Asper, a professor of marine science at the University of Southern Mississippi, told National Public Radio in a story that aired Monday that the largest is "probably 15 or 20 miles long and maybe 4 or 5 miles wide."