To cleanse the palate, a vid that’s now circulating on Twitter and will almost certainly be viral tomorrow morning even though it’s probably a hoax.
Let me stress: Probably.
We contacted the EPA for a comment on the possibility, but so far we haven’t received a definitive answer. An EPA media representative did point us to this article from Tampa Bay’s 10Connects news site, which quotes National Weather Servce Science and Operations Officer Charlie Paxton. According to Paxton, black rain isn’t possible since oil doesn’t evaporate. It is possible, however for rain to mix with other particles–perhaps including Corexit [an oil dispersant being used by BP]. And water spouts can pick up oil and carry it for short distances…
Update: The EPA sent us this statement: “EPA has no data, information or scientific basis that suggests that oil mixed with dispersant could possibly evaporate from the Gulf into the water cycle.” But one of our readers points us to a report (PDF) from the former Minerals Management Service claiming that lighter crude oils can evaporate. So it might be possible that oil is mixing with rain.
Jalopnik notes a study indicating that oil which mixes with water for long periods will emulsify, which in turn increases the likelihood of evaporation. Toss a little Corexit into the mix and the sky’s (literally) the limit. Oh, and more good news from Jalopnik: Corexit is itself toxic and can “damage the kidneys, liver, spleen and bone marrow of humans,” as well as cause, er, “reproductive problems.” So if that really is some sort of oil mixture falling from the sky, the oil isn’t even the most dangerous thing in it.
Exit question: If this is real, wouldn’t the reports of it be more widespread? I call hoax.