Loop Current Eddy cuts off; oil danger to Keys now greatly reduced

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2010

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A major ocean current re-alignment is underway the Gulf of Mexico right now, and the new configuration that is developing greatly reduces the threat of oil entering the Loop Current and affecting the Florida Keys and U.S. East Coast. As I explain in my Loop Current Primer, 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 past the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. With current speeds of about 0.8 m/s, the Loop Current is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Every 6 - 11 months, the top bulge of the Loop Current cuts off, forming a 250-mile diameter circular eddy in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. This clockwise-spinning eddy is filled with warm water from the Loop Current, and is called a Loop Current Eddy. The main body of the Loop Current then takes a fairly direct eastward path from the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Keys.

Over the past two days, surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico have aligned to form a Loop Current Eddy, as seen in the analysis of surface currents done by the U.S. Navy (Figure 1, and see also a 30-day animation of the eddy forming.) It remains to be seen if the deep water currents have followed suit, and a stable Loop Current Eddy cannot exist until the deep water currents also cut off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water at depth. A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is out over the Gulf of Mexico today dropping expendable buoys and current probes to determine if a stable Loop Current Eddy has formed. Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecast Service has a nice discussion on the Loop Current Eddy formation.


Figure 1. Comparison of surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19 (top) and May 27 (bottom) as simulated by the HYCOM model. On May 19, the Loop Current made a large northward loop into the Gulf, and was able to transport oil from the near the spill location southwards through the Keys. By May 27, this loop had cut off, and new oil moving southwards from the spill will now be trapped in the clockwise rotating Loop Current Eddy that is cut off from the Loop Current. Note on the west side of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas, there is an old Loop Current Eddy that cut off from the Loop Current in July 2009. This eddy cut off in the same location as this week's eddy, and has drifted west-southwestward at 3 - 5 km per day over the past ten months. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

If the eddy does remain in place, it will greatly reduce the chances of oil making it to Cuba, the Florida Keys, and beyond. Any oil moving southwards from the spill location will now become entrained in the eddy, and will move in a 250 mile-wide clockwise circle in the east-central Gulf of Mexico. A small portion the oil will get shed away from the eddy's periphery and make it into the Loop Current and waters surrounding the eddy, but the concentrations of oil doing so will be small. Keep in mind, though, that during the first 1 - 2 months that a Loop Current Eddy forms, it is common for the eddy to exchange substantial amounts of water with the Loop Current, and in some cases get re-absorbed into the Loop Current. A 1-year animation of the Loop Current shows that the last Loop Current Eddy, which cut off in mid-July 2009, experienced a 2-week period in early August when it re-attached to the Loop Current. A significant portion of any oil entering the eddy during a period of re-attachment will be able to enter the Loop Current and flow past the Keys.

One bad result of the eddy breaking off is that now we have an extra source of heat energy for passing hurricanes during the upcoming hurricane season. Loop Current eddies have high-temperature water that extends to great depth, and hurricanes passing over such eddies often undergo rapid intensification. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 both underwent rapid intensification as they passed over warm Loop Current eddies in 2005. The formation of a Loop Current Eddy during hurricane season means that a much greater portion of the Gulf of Mexico has deep, warm water capable of fueling rapid intensification of hurricanes.

Oil spill update
Light offshore northwesterly winds are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Saturday, resulting decreased threats of oil to the Louisiana shore, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These offshore winds may be able to transport oil southwards into the Loop Current Eddy that just formed; a streamer of oil moving southeastward into the Loop Current Eddy is visible in yesterday's NASA MODIS imagery (Figure 2). Winds will shift to onshore out of the south on Saturday night, then shift to southwesterly by Tuesday. The long-range forecast from the GFS model indicates continued southwesterly winds all of next week. If this forecast verifies, we will see our greatest chances yet of significant amounts of oil reaching the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico taken at 2:55pm EDT Thursday May 27, 2010, by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Thin streaks of oil can be seen moving southeast and then southwest around the eastern side of the new Loop Current Eddy. Image credit: NASA.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Central American disturbance
The Atlantic is currently quiet, with none of our reliable global forecast models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next 6 days. There is an area of disturbed weather (90E) just off the Pacific coast of Mexico that will be a major concern for southern Mexico and much of Central America over the next 3 - 4 days. The disturbance will bring heavy rains to Central America during the weekend, potentially bringing serious flooding rains to portions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. NHC is giving the disturbance a high (>60% chance) of the disturbance developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. Wunderbloggers Weather456 and StormW have more on the tropics.


Figure 3. Satellite image of the Central American disturbance 90E this morning.

Join the "Hurricane Haven" with Dr. Jeff Masters: a new Internet radio show
Beginning next week, I'll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called "Hurricane Haven." The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I'll cover on the first show:

1) What's going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti's vulnerability to a hurricane this season

I hope you can tune in to the broadcast, which will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. If not, the show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I'll be back with at least one update over the coming 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday!

Jeff Masters

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Quoting FIU2010:


y tu, no? el que me ofende a mi, yo lo ofendere para tras, tu no harias lo mismo? eso no es justo, ese degenerado me llamo un cancer, un CANCER, TU sabes que significa eso? en fin, olvidalo, eso es castigo por dios. tu me caes mas o menos, no me sigues molestando, para que no tenga que reportarte yo a ti tambien.


and you, no? that offends me me, I take offense to after, you would not do the same? that's not fair, that I call myself a cancer degenerate, a CANCER, YOU know what that means? Finally, forget it, that is punishment by God. I like your more or less, there still bothering me, so I do not have to report you to you too
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3506. EricSFL
Quoting FIU2010:


y tu, no? el que me ofende a mi, yo lo ofendere para tras, tu no harias lo mismo? eso no es justo, ese degenerado me llamo un cancer, un CANCER, TU sabes que significa eso? en fin, olvidalo, eso es castigo por dios. tu me caes mas o menos, no me sigues molestando, para que no tenga que reportarte yo a ti tambien.


OK
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why is the blog being bombarded by trolls?????????????????????????????????????
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Quoting EricSFL:
You people have no idea how much FIU2010 has offended people in this blog in Spanish.

did you report him to the admins? I could un-ignore him and do a translation of what he said.
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Quoting EricSFL:
You people have no idea how much FIU2010 has offended people in this blog in Spanish.


If he has.....his butt should be throwed out for good. I am a friend of his, and have defended him many times.....but enough is enough.
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3500. EricSFL
Quoting FIU2010:


wow, if she didn't have a COC she wouldn't be a storm.


I know.
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3499. EricSFL
I know
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3498. EricSFL
You people have no idea how much FIU2010 has offended people in this blog in Spanish.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3497. xcool



Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
3496. FIU2010
Quoting EricSFL:


I thought Agatha didn't have a coc.


wow, if she didn't have a COC she wouldn't be a storm.
pat is good man and plz stop with fighting i know someone is gonna get the boot cause of being u know what lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nite everyone......need some beauty sleep.....I MEAN A LOT OF BEAUTY SLEEP......LOL
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3493. EricSFL
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey gtuys where do you think the COC of TD Agatha is at this very moment


I thought Agatha didn't have a coc.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3492. xcool



LOW SHEAR CHANGE
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
3491. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey gtuys where do you think the COC of TD Agatha is at this very moment
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12334
3488. FIU2010
Quoting Patrap:
Sleep well..keep them animated images a coming.

2010 sure to keep ya busy.

End of line................................................................................................ .................................................................................beeeeeep


god bless ya, pat, your one heck of a good egg, looking forward to sharing this cane season with you, my friend.
3487. BtnTx
Quoting P451:


Just stop.

Most know your game.

Those who don't will learn that you're just a troll with no life who trolls a weather blog of all things pretending to join in on conversation to sit back and watch good folks respond to you thinking they are helping you understand the weather.

I know your gig. You're a cancer on this blog. A bum who hides behind a dynamic IP that no one can ban without accidentally banning innocent bloggers in the process. You know this, you exploit this, you are a SAD little fish curtain man.

Your life as we know it:



....and if I get banned for this again SHAME on the administrator in charge for failing to spot the same old BS posts from the same old continuously banned fool.



Now that's funny!
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3486. bappit
extra cool!
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3485. xcool
tropical weather, plz drop itttttt
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
3484. Patrap
Sleep well..keep them animated images a coming.

2010 sure to keep ya busy.

End of line................................................................................................ .................................................................................beeeeeep
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3483. P451
Quoting Patrap:


Oil in Air here will do that.

Ill try and do whats right in da future.

Its a good stress reliever, as were all kinda in a freaky deaky mode with the unknown Oil thing and well, the June I date looming.


I hear ya....

It's not a good thing down there.

Not much to say...cause...we don't know what's going on.

But, well, you have yourself a good night.

-out
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3482. Patrap
Quoting P451:


It's all good.

No biggie.

Fresca? Oh hell no. Perhaps a Mellow-Yellow? (LOL)

But, seriously, you got to lay up on some folks here.... you got a quick trigger man, and it isn't a good thing.

Regardless, sleep well, I know I will. Nearly 1 on the East Coast.

Got my priorities.

Have a good one.


Oil smell in da Air here will do that.

Ill try and do whats right in da future.

Its a good stress reliever, as were all kinda in a freaky deaky mode with the unknown Oil thing and well, the June I date looming.
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don't you think this is enough guys?
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1678
3480. FIU2010
that's normal down there, its winter, isn't it, aux?
3479. P451
Quoting Patrap:


I was a Jarhead..not a soldier..if ya dont want to see my post..use the iggy friend.


I've never given you grief,..so if ya let stuff occupy space in yer head from a weather blog,rent free, well,I suggest ya try and manage that in a more pro-active way.

No harm here,no fouls.

Life will go on,the Sun will rise sure as BP's well will be spewing at dawn.

Fresca's all round on me.


It's all good.

No biggie.

Fresca? Oh hell no. Perhaps a Mellow-Yellow? (LOL)

But, seriously, you got to lay up on some folks here.... you got a quick trigger man, and it isn't a good thing.

Regardless, sleep well, I know I will. Nearly 1 on the East Coast.

Got my priorities.

Have a good one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3478. FIU2010
Quoting P451:


Go for it, JFV.

Be sure to remind the admin that you've circumvented his ban 10x or more when you do.

My life doesn't revolve around this blog or the Admin's lack of knowledge on how his banned users sidestep his bans.

I could care less....you're a clown and everyone knows it.

Your life is dependent on trolling Dr. Master's blog.

You're a fool.

Think about it. Your life DEPENDS on duping good hearted posters on Dr. M's blog into answering your fake questions.

You're pathetic....


no comments, im just waiting until your gone, and dont you DARE mess around with pat, you spec. that man is deeply loved in here, you troll.
3477. Patrap
Quoting DDR:
That's why p-trap has been on my ignore list for years now,constantly bashing people,irrelevant posts etc.he belongs under the sink.


Joe the Plumber I aint..dats fo sho.

Thanx.

Happity Night to you 2..

See,some can use the iggy fine.

LOL
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3476. Patrap
Quoting P451:


Oh, come'on.

Even you gotta know you come on way too strong for no good reason.

You post a lot of good stuff, I've given you props for that plenty of times, but sometimes you go way off attacking folks for no good reason.

Stand down, Soldier! This isn't a fight to be fought.



I was a Jarhead..not a soldier..if ya dont want to see my post..use the iggy friend.


I've never given you grief,..so if ya let stuff occupy space in yer head from a weather blog,rent free, well,I suggest ya try and manage that in a more pro-active way.

No harm here,no fouls.

Life will go on,the Sun will rise sure as BP's well will be spewing at dawn.

Fresca's all round on me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3475. DDR
That's why p-trap has been on my ignore list for years now,constantly bashing people,irrelevant posts etc.he belongs under the sink.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Hurricanes101:
*Sits back with popcorn and a A&W cream soda*


Yea Tampa the shear being so low it is scary



Not sure if the shear nor anything of Agatha will be intact when it gets to the GOM but, if something is together with that Oil and the counterclock winds......LOOK OUT FLORIDA with the black gold crap.
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3473. P451
Quoting Patrap:

If ya can produce those post Francis,..feel free to quote um.

Personally..I tink ya slip a rod dude.

Semper Fi.


Enjoy your time off as well.

G'night.

"Muah"


Oh, come'on.

Even you gotta know you come on way too strong for no good reason.

You post a lot of good stuff, I've given you props for that plenty of times, but sometimes you go way off attacking folks for no good reason.

Stand down, Soldier! This isn't a fight to be fought.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:


Aussie this show the track of those models...really a bad possiblity if this happens.

Yeah, But will it hold together or will it just be a rain depression?

Btw, this is the current shear over Western Australia. Look at the strength of the shear over the Southern Indian Ocean, 140kts.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3471. hydrus
Quoting AussieStorm:
Has anyone seen what NOGAPS is predicting?
Sunday, 30 May 2010 10:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Monday, 31 May 2010 16:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Thursday, 3 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Friday, 4 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Saturday, 5 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)
I saw this yesterday. That model has been persistent with a storm hitting Nicaragua also.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21734
3470. P451
Quoting DDR:

LOL!
i was just about ready to sleep,LOL!!!!!


heh
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3469. P451
Quoting FIU2010:



hahahahahahahah, lol, you are so gone from here. i'm gonna notify both, the doc and the admins about this, asap. infeliz, estas deshecho. you've been, flagged and reported.

P.S, eres un analfabeto y desgraciadod e lo peor, y cancerosa, la que te pario, pudrete, canaja. :)


Go for it, JFV.

Be sure to remind the admin that you've circumvented his ban 10x or more when you do.

My life doesn't revolve around this blog or the Admin's lack of knowledge on how his banned users sidestep his bans.

I could care less....you're a clown and everyone knows it.

Your life is dependent on trolling Dr. Master's blog.

You're a fool.

Think about it. Your life DEPENDS on duping good hearted posters on Dr. M's blog into answering your fake questions.

You're pathetic....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3468. xcool
OLD 18Z ,NGP.AND LOW SHEAR COMEING SOON LOOK OUT OH MAN
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Sooo.. Um... TRMM made a direct hit on Agatha, this is a bit old but cool.*Click Image to Enlarge*

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3466. FIU2010
no worries, pat, he's gone from here.
*Sits back with popcorn and a A&W cream soda*


Yea Tampa the shear being so low it is scary

Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866


Aussie this show the track of those models...really a bad possiblity if this happens.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3463. FIU2010
morning mate, dont you see a consensus there, aussie.
Quoting TampaSpin:



This is really scary.....LOOK how the Shear is dropping compared to the Climatology...things are gonna get active very soon with this decline in Shear!


Active wave train, scary sst's, MJO in the neighborhood, somethings going to pop, that's fore sure.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3460. Patrap

If ya can produce those post Francis,..feel free to quote um.

Personally..I tink ya slip a rod dude.

Semper Fi.


Enjoy your time off as well.

G'night.

"Muah"
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3459. DDR
Quoting P451:


Just stop.

Most know your game.

Those who don't will learn that you're just a troll with no life who trolls a weather blog of all things pretending to join in on conversation to sit back and watch good folks respond to you thinking they are helping you understand the weather.

I know your gig. You're a cancer on this blog. A bum who hides behind a dynamic IP that no one can ban without accidentally banning innocent bloggers in the process. You know this, you exploit this, you are a SAD little fish curtain man.

Your life as we know it:



....and if I get banned for this again SHAME on the administrator in charge for failing to spot the same old BS posts from the same old continuously banned fool.




LOL!
i was just about ready to sleep,LOL!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Has anyone seen what NOGAPS is predicting?
Sunday, 30 May 2010 10:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Monday, 31 May 2010 16:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Thursday, 3 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Friday, 4 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


Saturday, 5 June 2010 04:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:



This is really scary.....LOOK how the Shear is dropping compared to the Climatology...things are gonna get active very soon with this decline in Shear!
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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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