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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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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3455. xcool
GO BE VERY interesting TO SEEING going HAPPEN..
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
3453. xcool
TampaSpin SORRY LOL
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
3452. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Sorry Xcool.....didn't know you had already posted the forecast track as i was just looking at it.....sorry you beat me.....LOL
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hey xcool I would not be suprised if the models start moving eastward
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9548
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Quoting TampaSpin:
It sure seems now that BP and the Government is just giving people hope for the next 2 months of getting the relief wells done, that each week something different will be attempted just to show they are trying. Knowing that nothing will work until the relief wells are complete. This is gonna get really ugly! Really ugly!


"gona get"?!?!?!/!?!?!?!?!?!?

ROTFLMBFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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3445. xcool



SO NEW
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
It sure seems now that BP and the Government is just giving people hope for the next 2 months of getting the relief wells done, that each week something different will be attempted just to show they are trying. Knowing that nothing will work until the relief wells are complete. This is gonna get really ugly! Really ugly!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3443. xcool



NEW NGP




Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting FIU2010:ojete!
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3441. Patrap
For BP and the crew,

"Were so sorry..Uncle Albert"

..Heads across da sky..
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Quoting TexasGulf:
I sure hope TS Agatha crosses into the Gulf as a disorganized mess.

Wind shear in the gulf will inhibit development, but at least some rain and choppy seas may cool SST's just a little. Every little bit might help this year.


Cooling would have little impact from Agatha in the GOM
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late
on a
holiday Saturday

bag o' weed
fire up
the bong

a little
paranoia sets in

all sounds
about right
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Quoting P451:


There is something very wrong with that image.

Something has been manipulated...for whatever reason I cannot fathom that that image has been altered.

The fellow in the foreground to the left has a double head of hair even.

Now, combine that with Obama's early day appearance on the LA beach fondling oil, with workers in the background.....of whom when HE left, THEY left and you had a deserted beach?

We got a bunch of BS going on here.

No two ways about it.

It's a SHOW.

It's pathetic....We got 50B gallons of oil left to jet into the gulf cause they have no way to stop a leak a mile down.

This is reality. Not this BS you put your faith behind a day ago when they claimed to stop the leak and you jumped on that bandwagon and threw one of your OHH-RAH's behind it.

Dump your ego for a change. Nobody is buying it anyway....



Obama i don't understand right now....I was really hoping for some Change! Same BS with this Administration as all the others. Our Government can't get anything right no matter who is President. We need a Farmer run for President not a Lawyer anymore.....JMHO
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I sure hope TS Agatha crosses into the Gulf as a disorganized mess.

Wind shear in the gulf will inhibit development, but at least some rain and choppy seas may cool SST's just a little. Every little bit might help this year.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3435. xcool



NEW GFS
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
3434. Patrap
Quoting P451:


There is something very wrong with that image.

Something has been manipulated...for whatever reason I cannot fathom that that image has been altered.

The fellow in the foreground to the left has a double head of hair even.

Now, combine that with Obama's early day appearance on the LA beach fondling oil, with workers in the background.....of whom when HE left, THEY left and you had a deserted beach?

We got a bunch of BS going on here.

No two ways about it.

It's a SHOW.

It's pathetic....We got 50B gallons of oil left to jet into the gulf cause they have no way to stop a leak a mile down.

This is reality. Not this BS you put your faith behind a day ago when they claimed to stop the leak and you jumped on that bandwagon and threw one of your OHH-RAH's behind it.

Dump your ego for a change. Nobody is buying it anyway....




Okay JIm..LOL


WTH you going on about...?


We all were here at 10 am this morning seeing the ROV Saw cut the choke feed on the BOP and we knew then, and even late last night the Top Kill has failed.

Dont u have some editing to do on a MPEG?


And its ooh-rah to yer civilian BHG.

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Quoting FIU2010:
tim, are you expecting aggy to survive the track?


Too some degree! Some energy will be together...don't know how much tho...but, some will be there.
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3431. Patrap
BP riser ROV Oil spill cam view,CNN
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Quoting FIU2010:
pat, do you think thad allen is doing a good job, thus far?


Actually is a good queston to someone that is upclose like Pat is.....I have really no idea if Officer Allen is doing a good job.
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3427. EricSFL
Quoting FIU2010:



Inaldito, espabilate......anyways, back to the weather.


LOL
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3426. Patrap
Quoting DentalPainDMD:


yea i think they just adjusted the contrast, brightness of the image upon close inspection. but still, i don't trust these people.


Im with ya on that..just the amount of time we spent on the post an image may have been their aim.


How can one tell if a BP spokesperson iz Lying..?

Their Lips r moving.
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Quoting Patrap:





One can see whatever they want in any Image. That's how we Hard wired.


Observation is a Learned trait.As in the tropics. It aint all math nor Pixels.



i can see the image was manipulated...that's all. I didn't say anything more
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Quoting Patrap:


Pyscho talk..

Why would someone take a pic ,,of a manipulated Image at Robert,La. site..and Post it On the DeepWater Response site ?



What ya seeing is a silkscreen reflection from a flash,..off the screen.

The conspiracy entry is down the hall on the right.

LOL



Not Pyscho talk ... who ever did it wasn't any good either.
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Quoting Patrap:


Pyscho talk..

Why would someone take a pic ,,of a manipulated Image at Robert,La. On the DeepWater Response site..and Post it ?



What ya seeing is a silkscreen reflection from a flash,..off the screen.

The conspiracy entry is down the hall on the right.

LOL

you're probably right. looks fake to me.
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Quoting MrstormX:


Proved me wrong...


yea i think they just adjusted the contrast, brightness of the image upon close inspection. but still, i don't trust these people.
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3419. Patrap
Quoting MrstormX:


Proved me wrong...





One can see whatever they want in any Image. That's how we Hard wired.


Observation is a Learned trait.As in the tropics. It aint all math nor Pixels.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:



Shortest path across.....something to watch.
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3417. Patrap
The Dvorak 6 hour loop shows a Whole Up Pulse and then the collapse in the floater Loop.

Agatha Floater - Dvorak Infrared Loop
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Quoting Patrap:


Pyscho talk..

Why would someone take a pic ,,of a manipulated Image at Robert,La. site..and Post it On the DeepWater Response site ?



What ya seeing is a silkscreen reflection from a flash,..off the screen.

The conspiracy entry is down the hall on the right.

LOL


Proved me wrong...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3415. Patrap
Quoting MrstormX:


Wow nice find, you aught to send that CNNs way..


Pyscho talk..

Why would someone take a pic ,,of a manipulated Image at Robert,La. site..and Post it On the DeepWater Response site ?



What ya seeing is a silkscreen reflection from a flash,..off the screen.

The conspiracy entry is down the hall on the right.

LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3414. EricSFL
Quoting FIU2010:


''Alumbrado'', acere.


ah OK, so then it's a safe city...
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**REPOST**
TROPICAL DEPRESSION AGATHA
11 pm EDT Advisory: Graphics update
**Graphics by AllStar17
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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Quoting DentalPainDMD:
was just on BP.com clicked on response in pictures then command center at the bottom. Look at this clearly photoshopped pic of the "command center" Link

//zoom in on the heads of the 2 guys in the back of the room, you can see the image on the large projection screen was manipulated.


Wow nice find, you aught to send that CNNs way..
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3409. EricSFL
Quoting FIU2010:


Pues entonces, no te busques un san-juan alumnrado conmigo, OK?


what on Earth does "alumnrado" mean????
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3407. Patrap
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

0245 UTC



2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

The same infrared imagery shown in the earth relative framework is displayed in a storm relative framework, with a 2km resolution and enhanced with the "BD Curve" which is useful for directly inferring intensity via the Dvorak Enhanced IR (EIR) technique. Scaling is provided by two lightly hatched circles around the center. The two circles have radii of 1 and 2 degrees latitude, respectively.
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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.