Long-range prospects for oil to enter the Loop Current and hit the Keys

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:21 PM GMT on May 06, 2010

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The oil slick from the April 20 explosion and blowout of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon is moving little, thanks to the light winds of 10 knots or less that have affected the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past few days. According to the latest NWS marine forecast, winds will remain light through Saturday, which should result in little transport of the oil slick. The latest trajectory forecast from the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration continues to show that the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Chandeleur Islands will be the only land areas affected by the spill over the next two days.

On Sunday, the winds will begin increasing and shifting to the southeast. The latest run of the GFS model shows that this will be a week-long period of southeast winds, with wind speeds at times reaching 20 - 25 knots. These winds will threaten to bring oil to a large portion of the Louisiana coast, including regions of the central Louisiana coast west of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi and Alabama coasts will also be at risk next week, but the risk to the Florida Panhandle is lower.


Figure 1. Forecast location of the oil spill for Friday, May 7, 2010. Image credit: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. See also the trajectory maps available at State of Louisiana web site.

Long-range prospects for oil to enter the Loop Current
A major concern with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the possibility for the oil to move southwards and become entrained into the mighty Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, which would rapidly transport the oil through the Florida Keys, impacting northwest Cuba, South Florida, the western Bahamas, and the U.S. East Coast all the way to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, there is no immediate danger of this happening. The latest forecast of Gulf currents from the NOAA HYCOM model (see also this alternative view of the HYCOM ocean current forecast) indicate that the currents will not be favorable for pulling any oil southwards into the Loop Current over the next five days. Oil will have to travel approximately 100 miles to the south-southeast to get entrained into the Loop Current, and we probably would need a 2+ day period of strong winds out of the north for this to happen. The long-range GFS model indicates that the earliest this might happen is 10+ days from now. As summer gets closer, the incidence of cold fronts making it far enough south to bring an extended period of offshore northerly winds to the Gulf of Mexico decreases. I think there is a 40% chance that the next cold front capable of pushing oil into the Loop Current will arrive by the end of June. However, I think it is more likely that the next such front will not arrive until October, when fall comes.

That makes a tropical storm or hurricane as perhaps the most likely weather event to push oil into the Loop Current over the next few months. A tropical storm hitting the Panhandle of Florida would do the trick, by bringing northerly winds over the oil spill location, thanks to the counter-clockwise flow of air around the storm. Looking ahead to June, June tropical storms tend to form in the Gulf of Mexico, and we've been averaging one June storm every two years since 1995. This year, the odds of a June Gulf of Mexico storm are probably a little lower than usual. While Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures are near average, wind shear from our lingering El NiƱo will probably be above average. Since 1995, there have been three June tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico that have followed a track capable of pushing oil into the Loop Current. These storms were Hurricane Allison of 1995, Tropical Storm Allison of 2001, and Tropical Storm Arlene of 2005. Taking into account all these factors, I'll give a 20% chance that we'll get a June tropical storm capable of transporting oil into the Loop Current.


Figure 2. Tracks of all June tropical storms and hurricanes, 1851 - 2006.

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I'll have a new post Friday. Next week, I'm in Tucson for the American Meteorological Society's bi-annual conference on hurricane science, and will be updating you on all the latest advancements in hurricane research.

Jeff Masters

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676. IKE
1:43 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
NEW BLOG...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
675. CycloneOz
1:22 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
I still believe our 1st system is going to start right there...and either run off to the east or dive into Belize.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3887
674. presslord
1:05 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting K8eCane:
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.



that, oddly enough, makes a lot of sense to me...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
673. weathermanwannabe
1:01 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting K8eCane:
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.


Yup.....I think this little "thingie" down there may have officially kicked off our "blob watch" this season.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9323
672. K8eCane
12:59 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3222
671. weathermanwannabe
12:58 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting altesticstorm10:

Or, we could see one of each (Adrian, then Arlene)

or, we could see one cross over and get a sex change (Alma-Arthur)


True............. :)
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9323
670. altesticstorm10
12:55 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Good Morning. Yup, that little area of persistent convection in the SW Caribbean might be the "crystal ball" event as to where we might see our first storm of the season in the Atlantic basin as the ITCZ is moving along nicely and slowly moving North. Problem right now is still too much shear, and as noted yesterday by another Blogger, that the active ITCZ may well signal a very active E-Pac season as the activity moves towards Central America/Panama area where this area is currently located. Have to watch the upcoming MJO cycle but I am not certain that the first storm to form down there, in mid-May to early June, will be an Atlantic Basin event; it could well be an E-Pac storm........Will have to wait to see what happens but that general area seems to be the one to watch over the coming weeks.

Or, we could see one of each (Adrian, then Arlene)

or, we could see one cross over and get a sex change (Alma-Arthur)
669. weathermanwannabe
12:53 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Good Morning. Yup, that little area of persistent convection in the SW Caribbean might be the "crystal ball" event as to where we might see our first storm of the season in the Atlantic basin as the ITCZ is moving along nicely and slowly moving North. Problem right now is still too much shear, and as noted yesterday by another Blogger, that the active ITCZ may well signal a very active E-Pac season as the activity moves towards Central America/Panama area where this area is currently located. Have to watch the upcoming MJO cycle but I am not certain that the first storm to form down there, in mid-May to early June, will be an Atlantic Basin event; it could well be an E-Pac storm........Will have to wait to see what happens but that general area seems to be the one to watch over the coming weeks.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9323
668. altesticstorm10
12:51 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
That 'entity' in the SW Caribbean is merely the tail end of a frontal boundary (TUTT). As you can see the cloud tops are getting sheared pretty badly. It's not going to develop into anything tropical. I know we're all waiting for our first system, just wait 2-3 more weeks and we'll get one, hold your horsies, lol
667. CyclonicVoyage
12:50 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
quite a few meso cyclones in my area yesterday. Palm Beach Gardens got nickel size hail.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
666. P451
12:49 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Good Morning.

12HR WV Imagery Loop - Ending 830AM ET.
Light Green and above is moist, Light Blue and below is dry.



Nature reminding us the tropical season is about to kick off.
Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
665. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
12:49 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting CycloneOz:


PensacolaDoug and I were fishing on a dock at Bayou Davenport in Warrington when a tropical depression began to form right above us.

Eventually, the depression moved off to the south and west and went into LA...but before it did, it dropped copious amounts of rain on us.

In one of the downbursts, the rain came hard and straight down, but stopped at the edge of the dock we were on. We were not getting wet at all, not a drop, but we could stick our arm out over the edge of the dock and put it into the rain up to our shoulder.

The rain snaked across the bayou out in front of us. It looked like a solid wall.



as my grandfather always said

wait things happen
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
664. CyclonicVoyage
12:47 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting Jeff9641:


Today is more complicated across C FL.


From the NWS

...FL...

STRONG DIABATIC HEATING WILL ENHANCE THERMAL CIRCULATIONS ALONG SEA
BREEZES LATER TODAY ACROSS THE CNTRL/SRN PENINSULA. NWLY FLOW AT
MID LEVELS IS A EXPECTED TO BE A BIT STRONGER THAN THURSDAY...THUS
ACTIVITY MAY BE MORE ORGANIZED AND POSSIBLY REQUIRING AN UPGRADE TO
SLIGHT RISK AS THE EVENT UNFOLDS. LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING
DOWNBURSTS ARE POSSIBLE WITH STRONG MULTI CELL...AND PERHAPS A FEW
SUPERCELL STRUCTURES.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
663. altesticstorm10
12:43 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not really understanding the forecasts for a 2005-like season, myself. The only factor that is as favorable (or arguably more favorable) as in 2005 are SSTs. These, of course, are only one of many factors.

A season like 1995 or 1998 is much more plausible.

1995 named storm total, with 2004-2005-2008 tracks

I just wish people would quit bringing up 1998, that was a very late starting hurricane season with a modest number of named storms. People keep forgetting that even 2007 and 2008 were more active than 1998 and the conditions this year are much more favorable in many ways than both 07 and 08 whereas in 1998 the El Nino lasted until like July and the shear was strong in the Caribbean all season long (minus Late October, but that doesn't count).
662. TropicTraveler
12:40 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
CycloneOz - Is that a fish story? Only kidding - really interesting.
Member Since: July 24, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 927
661. altesticstorm10
12:39 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting Levi32:


That is true....the Caribbean would be the hardest area of the Atlantic to cool down. However, I would not rule it out during the year where the most storms ever recorded passed through the Caribbean.

Two Cat 4's, one after the other, trekked through the Caribbean in the same period in early and mid July of a certain very recent year...no upwelling.
660. ftpiercecane
12:33 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Yesterdays T storms almost got to the east side of Saint Lucie county last night. Good lightning show for a little bit. Back to summer seabreeze thunderstorms.
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 204
659. Chicklit
12:25 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
from AP Story this morning by Harry Weber and Tamara Lush:

...the crane lifted the containment box from the deck and into the Gulf after 10 p.m. CDT, dark oil clinging to its white sides as it entered the water and disappeared below the surface.

The technology has been used a few times in shallow waters, but never at such extreme depths -- 5,000 feet down, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine.

The box -- which looks a lot like a peaked, 40-foot-high outhouse, especially on the inside, with its rough timber framing -- must be accurately positioned over the well, or it could damage the leaking pipe and make the problem worse.

BP spokesman Doug Suttles said he is not concerned about that happening. Underwater robots have been clearing pieces of pipe and other debris near where the box will be placed to avoid complications.

"We do not believe it could make things worse," he said.


Other risks include ice clogs in the pipes -- a problem that crews will try to prevent by continuously pumping in warm water and methanol -- and the danger of explosion when separating the mix of oil, gas and water that is brought to the surface.

"I'm worried about every part, as you can imagine," said David Clarkson, BP vice president of engineering projects.

If the box works, a second one now being built may be used to deal with a second, smaller leak from the sea floor.

"Hopefully, it will work better than they expect," Peake, said.


Big Polluter has credibility issues.
At least the engineer on the ground says he's worried.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11389
658. CycloneOz
12:19 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting severstorm:
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.


PensacolaDoug and I were fishing on a dock at Bayou Davenport in Warrington when a tropical depression began to form right above us.

Eventually, the depression moved off to the south and west and went into LA...but before it did, it dropped copious amounts of rain on us.

In one of the downbursts, the rain came hard and straight down, but stopped at the edge of the dock we were on. We were not getting wet at all, not a drop, but we could stick our arm out over the edge of the dock and put it into the rain up to our shoulder.

The rain snaked across the bayou out in front of us. It looked like a solid wall.

Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3887
657. TropicTraveler
12:19 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Good morning all, heard on the news that there are tar balls on Mississipi beaches this morning - didn't see any pictures though. Anybody living there who can confirm? Now if only the ants could converge on them and find them yummy....
Member Since: July 24, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 927
656. Jeff9641
12:17 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting severstorm:

Hi jeff, yes your right this is florida. and you said i would get some rain. bravo to you.


Today is more complicated across C FL.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
655. severstorm
12:15 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting Jeff9641:


That's Florida! I had the same thing happen in my area yesterday.

Hi jeff, yes your right this is florida. and you said i would get some rain. bravo to you.
Member Since: November 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 959
654. Jeff9641
12:15 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
I expect scattered strong to severe storms again across East Central Florida due to the -10 to -11 temps in the upper levels. NWS wants to focus these storms over S FL but I am not seeing this today and you can thank an Upper Low near the Great lakes. This Upper Low will tug an old frontal boundry north and focus strong to severe wx across East Central Florida today. Also, the east coast seabreeze will move into the interior today rather than being pinned along the east coast. Be ready for very dangerous lightning with these storms as well.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
653. tkeith
12:14 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting CycloneOz:
A mission to the bottom of the sea to try to avert a wider environmental disaster progressed early Friday as crews said a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box was close to being placed over a blown-out well on the Gulf floor in an unprecedented attempt to capture gushing oil.

Douglas Peake, the first mate of the supply boat that brought the box to the site, confirmed a radio transmission from the nearby vessel lowering the device that said the device would be in position over the well soon.
with the way things have gone so far...I wouldn't be surprised the next headline reads "Drum on crane lowering coffer Dome only had 4900 ft of cable. BP expects to lift coffer dome back to the surface and refit drum with adequate amount of cable more details to follow"

I hope this works...
Member Since: November 1, 2004 Posts: 25 Comments: 8937
652. CycloneOz
12:14 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting WarEagle8:
Noticed this little flare-up in the SW portion of the pix (NW of South America).




I believe that is the spot where our 1st tropical system will form in about two weeks.

If you look at the ITCZ, all the energy being sent from Africa is funneling right up into that area...off Panama.

It's only a matter of time now...
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3887
651. K8eCane
12:14 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting severstorm:
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.

That reminds me that one time we needed rain so bad, and it was coming, but then it stopped about 100 ft from our house, AT THE STOP SIGN. No Joke. Several of us saw it
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3222
650. Jeff9641
12:08 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting severstorm:
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.


That's Florida! I had the same thing happen in my area yesterday.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
649. WarEagle8
12:07 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
Noticed this little flare-up in the SW portion of the pix (NW of South America).


Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 126
648. CycloneOz
12:02 PM GMT on May 07, 2010
A mission to the bottom of the sea to try to avert a wider environmental disaster progressed early Friday as crews said a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box was close to being placed over a blown-out well on the Gulf floor in an unprecedented attempt to capture gushing oil.

Douglas Peake, the first mate of the supply boat that brought the box to the site, confirmed a radio transmission from the nearby vessel lowering the device that said the device would be in position over the well soon.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3887
647. msmanatee
11:51 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
I've been here for years but try to keep my mouth shut because I'm no meteorologist; I learn so much here and thank you all for that. Hoping someone can advise me...
Of course on Florida's west coast, we are obsessing over the loop current. On another forum I belong to, speculation is that surface currents aren't the same as deep currents. Ergo, could the underwater oil plume be migrating faster than surface pattern indicates? This doesn't make intuitive sense to me but I'm hoping you can direct me to a laymen-level explanation. If it's on this thread already, I will go back farther (just back to peanut butter post #1 right now)!
Thanks!
ETA: I should have said "migrating in a different direction than surface currents indicate" sorry. We realize loop current predominates, just don't know if there are additional possibilities hiding out there...
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
646. BenBIogger
11:48 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Negative NAO
Member Since: March 19, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1421
645. severstorm
11:37 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.
Member Since: November 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 959
644. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:36 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
643. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:34 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting aquak9:
still cleaning up peanut butter here...
watch out for the ants
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
642. wunderkidcayman
11:34 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
oh great now it more tropical waves

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12376
641. Engine2
11:28 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting IKE:


There's nothing on either one of them related to the Atlantic. Not sure what he's "wowing" about.
Thanks IKE I just took a look at the ones from wunderground and there is absolutely nothing noteworthy on them.
Member Since: February 27, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
640. aquak9
11:13 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
still cleaning up peanut butter here...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 171 Comments: 26253
639. MahFL
11:08 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
IKE, I was thinking the same thing too, maybe it was some sarcasim, which is hard to portray online.
Member Since: June 9, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 3685
638. IKE
11:05 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting Engine2:
Can you post links to them please? Thanks I'm on another computer don't have my bookmarks


There's nothing on either one of them related to the Atlantic. Not sure what he's "wowing" about.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
637. stormwatcherCI
10:58 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
TROPICAL WAVES...

A SERIES OF TROPICAL WAVES ARE EMBEDDED IN THE ITCZ. ONE JUST
OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA ALONG 15W...A SECOND ONE ALONG
36W...AND A THIRD ONE ALONG 45W. TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER VALUES
ARE ELEVATED NEAR THESE WAVES. SCATTERED MODERATE TO HEAVY
SHOWERS ARE WITHIN 80 NM OF EACH WAVE AXIS.
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8423
636. Engine2
10:24 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting xcool:
look at cmc and gfs wow
Can you post links to them please? Thanks I'm on another computer don't have my bookmarks
Member Since: February 27, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
635. leftovers
8:42 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
tgif good morning we should know by sunday if the box works
634. xcool
7:59 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
look at cmc and gfs wow
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
633. xcool
5:33 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
mmm





kind old
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
632. 789
5:05 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting pottery:
There was some discussion the other day about the effects that the oil spill could have on SST's in the area it is in.
Any thoughts on that?
oz has flares ready its already affecting sst
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 262
631. Seastep
4:42 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Green is another marketing ploy.

I'll buy it if it is of the same or higher quality. Otherwise, it is a waste of money.

I'm a huge CF guy now. Especially since I can now run my 1K watt chandelier lights with 275 watts and not have to replace for years.

Practical works. That's capitalism. The only true democracy ever. Vote is with the wallet and there are no elections necessary.

Although I am sure I will be pounded later that I'm using too much mercury. ;)

Goodnight.
Member Since: September 9, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3414
630. Levi32
4:41 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting atmoaggie:

I see your thinking, yet, I question how thoroughly any amount of hurricanes can cool the Caribbean. Yes, storms move heat, thereby removing it from a body of water, but how effectively. So effectively that they really can cool large swaths of the Caribbean where the waters are very warm and the mixed layer is very deep? I have doubts.

Could be that some other function was the limiting factor in that latitude band, as is usually the case.


That is true....the Caribbean would be the hardest area of the Atlantic to cool down. However, I would not rule it out during the year where the most storms ever recorded passed through the Caribbean.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26682
629. Drakoen
4:35 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Quoting atmoaggie:

I see your thinking, yet, I question how thoroughly any amount of hurricanes can cool the Caribbean. Yes, storms move heat, thereby removing it from a body of water, but how effectively. So effectively that they really can cool large swaths of the Caribbean where the waters are very warm and the mixed layer is very deep? I have doubts.

Could be that some other function was the limiting factor in that latitude band, as is usually the case.


I'd have to agree; I don't see how those storms could have cooled the Caribbean enough to prevent major hurricanes from forming.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30613
628. hydrus
4:33 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Look at the moisture plume going from the S.W.Caribbean all the way across the Atlantic to Portugal. It is like a road of clouds.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21734
627. Seastep
4:28 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Organic is marketing at it's finest.

Pay more for something that tastes worse?

Knock yourself out.
Member Since: September 9, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3414
626. NEFLWATCHING
4:26 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
Can't stand it - on the peanut butter, smooth, or crunchy? Fat-free? Organic, or not? Seriously, does it ever make it to the floor if your dog is around?
Member Since: September 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 193

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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