Human cost of California gas well leak revealed

Refugees would fill 176 double-decker buses, BBC explains

The BBC has published an entertaining analysis of the emissions of a blown-out natural gas well near Los Angeles, which is releasing so much methane that LA county supervisor Mike Antonovich was moved over the weekend to describe the disaster as "a mini-Chernobyl".

For those of us wondering just how much is "so much", Auntie explains that the well is "spewing about 30,300kg of methane into the atmosphere per hour".

Over a year, that adds up to 265,428,000kg, equivalent to the output of 1.77 million cows (annual average bovine methane burp production 150kg).

Impressive, but it's the figures relating to people displaced by the disaster which will be of interest to long-term Reg readers. The Beeb reckons around 11,296 individuals have been temporarily relocated - enough to pack "176 double-decker buses".

They'd also fill "12.2% of the [Pasadena] Rose Bowl's seats during a UCLA football game", which means they'd easily fit inside the mighty helium balloon which lifts NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD).

There was a certain amount of confusion last year surrounding just how big the whopping 963,000 cubic metre envelope actually is in layman's terms, after NASA explained you could "fit a professional football stadium inside it". The space agency later clarified it "would fit snugly into Pasadena's Rose Bowl", thereby providing an essential point of reference.

Evidently, the "Pasadena Rose Bowl" standard now serves not only as a measure of mighty gas-filled orbs, but also to quantify masses of people. This may prove handy for future use when smaller volumes prove inadequate, such as our 2013 estimate that the entire Reg readership would fill no fewer than 205 Olympic-sized swimming pools. ®

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