Oil spill headed towards the Loop Current

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:01 PM GMT on May 17, 2010

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Recent satellite imagery and flight over-passes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill confirm that a surface tendril of oil has become entrained into a southward-moving current that threatens to pull oil into the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current late this week. The Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and then along the west side of the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. Once oil gets into the Loop Current, the 1 - 2 mph speed of the current should allow the oil to travel the 500 miles to the Florida Keys in 10 - 20 days. Portions of the Loop Current flow at speed up to 4 mph, so the transport could be faster.

Why is oil getting close to the Loop Current?
The winds over the oil spill location are offshore out of the northwest today, and offshore winds will continue intermittently through Wednesday, helping push the oil southwards towards the Loop Current. However, the major reason oil is moving southwards is because of the instability of the currents in the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current is not a stable feature, and tends to surge northwards and southwards in a chaotic fashion, and in response to changes in the prevailing winds. Over the past week, chaotic behavior of the Loop Current and a clockwise-rotating eddy just to its north, just south of the oil spill location, have combined to bring a current of southward-moving surface water to the oil spill location. As strong on-shore winds from the southeast slackened this past weekend, oil has been drawn southward towards the Loop Current. An examination of the latest NOAA trajectory forecasts and surface current forecasts reveals the possibility that this tendril of southward-moving oil could make it into the Loop Current late this week. It is highly uncertain how much oil might make it into the Loop Current, or how diluted it might get on its voyage to the Florida Keys next week. Southeast to east winds of 10 - 15 knots are expected to develop late this week and extend into early next week, which may be strong enough to impose a surface current that will prevent oil from getting into the Loop Current this month. I predict a 30% chance that oil will make it into the Loop Current in the next two weeks.


Figure 1. Forecast made at 8pm EDT Sunday May 16, 2010, of the Gulf of Mexico currents by NOAA's HYCOM model. A persistent southward flowing surface current is predicted to occur this week between the oil spill location (red dot) and the Loop Current. Image credit: NOAA.

Likely areas of impact once oil gets into the Loop Current
Based on a study of 194 floating probes released into the Northeast Gulf of Mexico during a 1-year study in the 1990s (Figure 2), the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay southwards to the Everglades is at minimal risk of receiving oil from surface currents. There is a "forbidden zone" off the southwest Florida coast where the shape of the coast, bottom configuration, and prevailing winds all act to create upwelling and surface currents that tend to take water away from the coast. This study implies that the greatest risk of land impacts by surface oil caught in the Loop Current is along the ocean side of the Florida Keys, and along the coast of Southeast Florida from Miami to West Palm Beach. Eddies breaking away from the Gulf Stream would also likely bring oil to northwest Cuba, the western Bahamas, and the U.S. East Coast as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, though at lesser concentrations. Southwest Florida cannot rest entirely, though--the "forbidden zone" is only true for surface waters, and there is onshore flow below the surface. Since recent ship measurements have detected substantial plumes of oil beneath the surface, southwest Florida might be at risk if one of these plumes gets entrained into the Loop Current. These subsurface plumes were also detected by current probes launched into the oil spill on May 8 by one of NOAA's hurricane hunter aircraft, according to one scientist I spoke to at last week's AMS hurricane conference. There are plans for the Hurricane Hunters to go out again tomorrow and drop more probes into the spill to attempt to get a better handle on where the oil is and where the currents are taking it.


Figure 2. Paths of 194 floating probes released into the yellow-outlined area in the northeast Gulf of Mexico between February 1996 and February 1997 as part of a study by the Mineral Management Service (MMS). The probes were all launched into waters with depth between 20 and 60 meters. Image credit: Yang, H., R.H. Weisberga, P.P. Niilerb, W. Sturgesc, and W. Johnson, 1999, Lagrangian circulation and forbidden zone on the West Florida Shelf, Continental Shelf Research Volume 19, Issue 9, July 1999, Pages 1221-1245 doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(99)00021-7

When will a Loop Current eddy break off?
Every 6 - 11 months, the looped portion of the Loop Current cuts off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water that then slowly drifts west-southwest towards Texas. When one of these rings breaks off at the peak of hurricane season, it provides a source of heat energy capable of providing fuel for rapid intensification of any hurricanes that might cross over. The Loop Current is not predicted to shed an ring over the next month, as predicted by the latest 1-month forecast from the U.S. Navy. However, the last eddy broke off in July of 2009, ten month ago, and it is unusual for the Loop Current to go more than eleven months without shedding an eddy. I expect we'll see the Loop Current shed an eddy in July or August, just in time to pose the maximum threat for hurricane season. According to an interesting February 2004 article published by offshore-engineer.com, reliable forecasts of these currents and eddies are not available yet. Keep in mind that surface currents are largely driven by winds, and wind forecasts are not reliable out more than about 10 days.

References
Yang, H., R.H. Weisberga, P.P. Niilerb, W. Sturgesc, and W. Johnson, 1999, Lagrangian circulation and forbidden zone on the West Florida Shelf, Continental Shelf Research Volume 19, Issue 9, July 1999, Pages 1221-1245 doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(99)00021-7.

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Good Afternoon Everybody,

Well got the oil changed in my truck, new tags and getting cameras ready and then work the rest of this week,
so Saturday we will be heading to Joplin MO to see mom.
But on that Monday the chase will be "ON".
Man I wish this week would hurry up and get over with.
I'm so ready to go after yesterday with Tornadodude and there chase....

Taco :o)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3173
Quoting Levi32:
This was the 6z GFS phase diagram of the trough-split low.



If the maps verify, this could be TD 1

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132. JRRP
Quoting Levi32:
This was the 6z GFS phase diagram of the trough-split low.


in transition to tropical system
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5084


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
92B

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*Update* Unified Area Command to hold press briefing in Robert, La.

Key contact numbers

* Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
* Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
* Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (281) 366-5511
* Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
* Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401



Deepwater Horizon Incident
Joint Information Center

Phone: (985) 902-5231
(985) 902-5240

*Updated information is highlighted*



Who: U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles and Mike Saucier, MMS Regional Director of Field Operations.



What: Unified Command to update media on ongoing operations regarding Deepwater Horizon oil spill response efforts and progress.



Where: The entrance location for press conferences at the Shell Robert Training and Conference Center has changed. Members of the media will enter the facility from the back gate. For a map to the back gate, click here. The address is 23260 Shell Lane in Robert, La., 70455-1928. A Unified Area Command joint information center representative will be at the gate at 12:30 p.m., to escort media.



When: 2:00 p.m. CDT. The call-in number for press unable to attend: (877) 918-5750.
International callers use (312) 470-7364 Password RESPONSE (73776673).



Live broadcast may be available on the Digital Video Information Distribution System (DVIDS) hub, which can be accessed at www.dvidshub.net. To see the live broadcast or download video of the conference, media must register with DVIDS no later than 1:45 p.m. This can be done on the DVIDS Web site or by calling (678) 421-6612.



RSVP: Media interested in attending should arrive no earlier than 12:00 p.m.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
This was the 6z GFS phase diagram of the trough-split low.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
......I had warned yesterday that i feared the oil might reach the loop current by mid week,I still give it a better than 50%chance of reaching the loop current by the weekend,there is a FSU model out that shows this occuring,let me see if I can find it,I would expect the disturbed area off the yucatan to remain stationary and dissapate the only show in town would be if the trough split occurs south of the bahamas area in about a week,IMO could get interesting end of the month along the SE coastline!!!
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
The LOOP CURRENT HAS GRABBED IT NOW.....OH BOY!

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
That Dr. Masters sure does know how to write a good report. I swear I learn more from the few minutes I spend reading him than all the other weather-heads combined. And if I could only remember a tenth of all he's written, I'd be nothin' short o' brilliant.
Stupid oil leak.
Of course, folks like me who've lived in the area (WPB, Lake Worth, Lantana) our whole lives and are familier with the Gulf Stream, have been expecting its sticky visit ever since the ugly mess started. When the GS is rough, you can see it from shore.
The shape of the east side of the state - especially where Palm Beach sticks out on the point - appears to have an effect on the paths of hurricanes as well.
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Quoting Bordonaro:

"E" continues to blow out tons of ash and SO2 into the Icelandic atmosphere:



I find it hard to believe that this won't have any impact on our climate, especially if it goes on for months... or years.



Ash is forecast to be pushed up into the Arctic circle and russia.
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ESL by LSU



COSMO-Skymed Image from CSTARS, May 16, 2010
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Quoting jcxt:
New modis image.
Not good.

http://ge.ssec.wisc.edu/modis-today/


The oil?
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121. jcxt
New modis image.
Not good.

http://ge.ssec.wisc.edu/modis-today/
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119. JRRP
NOGAPS 12z
Link
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5084
109 Miss Nadia; Thanks... I was thinking along the lines of accident info.

ahhh, sorry I misunderstood.. I dunno, I doubt BP would be very interested in recovering info or documents that might incriminate them and show them liable for the whole shebang.. there IS 7 hours of information missing.. pretty convenient I'd say.
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117. IKE
12Z CMC....
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Hurricane Katrina photo exhibit documents sorrows, joys, desperate moments, rebuilt lives
By Cindy Chang, The Times-Picayune
May 17, 2010, 5:35AM


On Oct. 20, 2005, Karen Smith sat in her front yard washing dishes in a plastic bucket, her one-story brick home in ruins behind her. Clothes were hung to dry on a tree -- a sign, along with the makeshift kitchen sink, that the Smiths were living without modern conveniences in the months after Hurricane Katrina.

Nearly five years later, Smith and her family posed for a photograph on the front steps of a new and much bigger house on the same Lakeview lot, the two-story facade, front porch and hanging plants emblematic of an American dream rising from the ruins.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Quoting CycloneUK:

Volcanic Ash Update

The latest information from the Icelandic Met Office indicates that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt. It is estimated that the current height of the ash plume is around 26000 ft (8 km) and lightning activity is constantly being detected within it. The plume is currently drifting northwards, but there is still residual ash in the vicinity of the British Isles from material that was blown southeastwards from the volcano a few days ago. Issued at 1546 on Mon 17 May 2010.


Timelapse 13-15 May: Link


"E" continues to blow out tons of ash and SO2 into the Icelandic atmosphere:

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Patrap:
LOL...

Recon Pelicans ?


They always picking up stuff Pelicans,..ever seen a Pelican nest irg?

They are the Octopuss's of the Sky.







I've seen many, but not IN them...junk collectors eh... larn sumpin evr day :)
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Volcanic Ash Update

The latest information from the Icelandic Met Office indicates that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt. It is estimated that the current height of the ash plume is around 26000 ft (8 km) and lightning activity is constantly being detected within it. The plume is currently drifting northwards, but there is still residual ash in the vicinity of the British Isles from material that was blown southeastwards from the volcano a few days ago. Issued at 1546 on Mon 17 May 2010.


Timelapse 13-15 May: Link

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Quoting CycloneOz:
CBS News is to have a phone interview with me in 30 minutes...

More later...



Waaaaaaaayyyyy cool Brian!!!!
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StSimonsIslandGAGuy "Makes me wonder if the GFS chip in that errant probe is messed up....or if someone found the probe and put it in Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee river as a prank.
indianrivguy "I don't think there is even a road along that path, much less the rivers.. I dunno, something is "fishy".. it would have to have gone by swamp buggy, air boat or air plane to take that route"

Got mistaken for a fish then swallowed by a heron, which was promptly ingested by a Burmese python that swam and slithered up to the lake. How the Burmese python managed to get past HomelandSecurity is the real question.
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Lake Okeechobee lies at the center of the interconnected Everglades ecosystem, which includes the Kissimmee River to the north, and the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) and Everglades National Park (ENP) to the south. The lake also forms part of the navigable Okeechobee Waterway connecting the east and west coasts of Florida via the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River.

Sorry didn't save the link to site; supposed to be working :)
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Quoting indianrivguy:


I am a submariner, not a salver.. but I doubt after the fire it is worth salvage.. that fire almost certainly rendered it nothing but scrap iron.


Thanks... I was thinking along the lines of accident info.
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Quoting MissNadia:
Hey Indianriverguy,

You worked in the DEEP sea. Do you feel there is a chance to raise that rig from 5000 feet ??


I am a submariner, not a salver.. but I doubt after the fire it is worth salvage.. that fire almost certainly rendered it nothing but scrap iron.
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LOL...

Recon Pelicans ?


They always picking up stuff Pelicans,..ever seen a Pelican nest irg?

They are the Octopuss's of the Sky.





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Quoting MissNadia:
Do you feel there is a chance to raise that rig from 5000 feet ??


Only Dirk Pitt and NUMA would even consider such an endeavor! ;)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
Quoting doabarrelroll:


Thanks Weather and Levi, I cant see the images you post since I am at work and they are blocked. At what hour is this on the GFS indicating


On the 12z run the process begins around 96 hours and continues through Day 9, 216 hours. By that time the upper trough is still there but the GFS starts fusing features together from the Caribbean which makes it look like a mess.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting Patrap:


Or z Pelican maybe..?


do ya reckon the probes looked like fishes....
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#101

Remember to Highlight your Yazoo, Miss xperience.

Burgers included
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Hey Indianriverguy,

You worked in the DEEP sea. Do you feel there is a chance to raise that rig from 5000 feet ??
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CBS News is to have a phone interview with me in 30 minutes...

More later...
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
Quoting Levi32:


The GFS is showing a trough-split occurring in the SW Atlantic, where an elongated upper trough gets dragged out in the subtropics as the northern part of the trough lifts out, leaving the tail piece behind to retrograde west under the ridge. This particular situation puts a rather vigorous piece of upper energy in a position to initiate baroclinic development of a surface low beneath it, and if the upper trough gets fully cut-off as some of the models are indicating may happen, the surface low can become subtropical in nature.


Thanks Weather and Levi, I cant see the images you post since I am at work and they are blocked. At what hour is this on the GFS indicating
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Looks like play-time for the NOGAPS as well:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting indianrivguy:


I don't think there is even a road along that path, much less the rivers.. I dunno, something is "fishy".. it would have to have gone by swamp buggy, air boat or air plane to take that route


Or z Pelican maybe..?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Serious thunder boomers in Bethune Beach right now. Still have power.
Thanks for the update Dr. Masters.
Wish this nightmare would end but think it's going to be quite a while, like at least a decade, before we've seen the last of this mess.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
The weekly CPC update has El Nino 3.4 down to -0.1 down from +0.3 last week meaning it is dipping fast.

Link


El Nino is gone the doc confirmed it last week
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Quoting doabarrelroll:

of what?
Quoting tramp96:

How what turns out? Low developing?


The GFS is showing a trough-split occurring in the SW Atlantic, where an elongated upper trough gets dragged out in the subtropics as the northern part of the trough lifts out, leaving the tail piece behind to retrograde west under the ridge. This particular situation puts a rather vigorous piece of upper energy in a position to initiate baroclinic development of a surface low beneath it, and if the upper trough gets fully cut-off as some of the models are indicating may happen, the surface low can become subtropical in nature.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Makes me wonder if the GFS chip in that errant probe is messed up....or if someone found the probe and put it in Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee river as a prank.


I don't think there is even a road along that path, much less the rivers.. I dunno, something is "fishy".. it would have to have gone by swamp buggy, air boat or air plane to take that route
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Yesterday in OK. Unbelievable. Link
Unbelievable.
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Maybe somebody pick it up. Thought it was a pretty sea shell and took it home. Long shot a hurricane picked it up maybe Wilma.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


What model is that from?


The GFS

Quoting doabarrelroll:

of what?


of a baroclinically induced cyclone in the tropics or subtropics. Sometimes they become hybrids or subtropical cyclones, other times, they remain non-tropical.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Makes me wonder if the GFS chip in that errant probe is messed up....or if someone found the probe and put it in Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee river as a prank.


It Could have looped around from the East Coast of Florida and got there from an incoming tide and then got mixed into the River system and into the Big "O" from there. Its the only way is see.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
The large "blob" of oil remains in suspension at depth, but its behavior if it does surface is relatively unknown. Being roughly 10 miles x 20 miles x (whatever) depth... it is obviously material that has congealed together and is very unlikely to disperse once it surfaces.

A tropical storm would only have small surface impact. However, a passing hurricane can cause much deeper water upwelling to the surface. Is it possible that, while the blob of oily emmulsion material is in suspension now at that depth, a passing hurricane can bring it to the surface? In that case, in the wake of a hurricane, we could have a large surface blob of 10 miles x 20 miles by 100 feet thick ooze?

That would make things convenient for suctioning and clean-up if it stayed in open water. Not so easy to clean up if it gets close to land or into the loop current.

Hurricanes provide a vital and necessary function in removing heat from the tropics. In this case, a hurricane can preform an invaluable service if it can cause the blob of oil to upwell to the surface without breaking it apart. Every cloud (or hurricane) must have it's silver lining.
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The weekly CPC update has El Nino 3.4 down to -0.1 down from +0.3 last week meaning it is dipping fast.

Link
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Yesterday in OK. Unbelievable. Link


Really crazy! I've never seen hail like this.
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Quoting Levi32:



Very much so. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

How what turns out? Low developing?
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About JeffMasters

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