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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3257. Patrap
3 waves of the Wand over the Modem..

and...

"POOF !!!!"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Thankfully we have TC chat as a backup if this becomes overcrowded.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


It's either a dry pocket, or a downdraft from the hot tower. The center is located on the border between Mexico and Guatemala.


Or lake Atitlan
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15671
Quoting SiestaCpl:
The head of Rio Tinto Mining (#2 Mining group in the world) has their hands in his pockets with consulting deals for him...he will do nothing that will cut off their games.


Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BahaHurican:
AKA sarcasm, satire, verbal irony....


i kinda figured so, but you never can tell around here
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3252. Patrap

Quoting Ossqss:


Like I said, where is the action now, not then. Then, does not fix now!


Cheney on CNN
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting MyrtleCanes:


seriously dude?
AKA sarcasm, satire, verbal irony....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SiestaCpl:
I am an American Indian...we know the Interior department all too well...MMS is another face of the beast...we refer to the BIA - "Bureau of Indian Affairs" as "Bastards In Action"...


Are you from the US or Guatemala?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3249. Ossqss
Quoting Patrap:


Dats frigging ez..LOL

a) Cheney secret meetings energy task force, 2001
b) Tripling of permits for offshore drilling by 2003
c) Quadrupling of exemptions from procedure/equipment for platforms by 2005
d) Doubling of tax breaks for oil companies by 2006
e) Proof of deep and persistent corruption in MMS by 2007


Lay off the Tea and FAUX,,itsa making ya jittery


Like I said, where is the action now, not then. Then, does not fix now!
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
Caribboy... some1 mentioned that earlier.... we're likely to see 10000+ posts daily at the height of the season, when the doc may update his blog as many as 2 times a day...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CaribBoy:
The blog is active! What it would be if we had 3 named storms heading toward the US East coast, the GOMEX and the leeward/virgin islands respectively lol
I think the blog will literally crash! LOL!
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2570
Quoting Chicklit:
I haven't checked the center coordinates. Is that an eye or an optical illusion?


It's either a dry pocket, or a downdraft from the hot tower. The center is located on the border between Mexico and Guatemala.
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3245. Patrap
Quoting BahaHurican:
Nite, Pat. U had a lot of good, interesting things to titillate the thinking today.....


TY BH,..was a good info day.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting SouthALWX:
I blame all you people who screamed "global warming" and started not using fossil fuels ... If you were right, and you helped the rest of America, then the ocean temp at 5000 feet wouldnt be so cold and it wouldnt be so difficult to mitigate the leak. Shame on all of you bloody hippies, shame on you.


seriously dude?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3243. Patrap
Quoting Ossqss:


Tell me how Cheney is impacting the cleanup
Where is the effort and use of technology?

This is not now about the past friend......


Dats frigging ez..LOL

a) Cheney secret meetings energy task force, 2001
b) Tripling of permits for offshore drilling by 2003
c) Quadrupling of exemptions from procedure/equipment for platforms by 2005
d) Doubling of tax breaks for oil companies by 2006
e) Proof of deep and persistent corruption in MMS by 2007


Lay off the Tea and FAUX,,itsa making ya jittery
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
The blog is active! What it would be if we had 3 named storms heading toward the US East coast, the GOMEX and the leeward/virgin islands respectively lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nite, Pat. U had a lot of good, interesting things to titillate the thinking today.....
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3240. Ossqss
Quoting Patrap:
Well the time has come to say goodbye to you and all my friends..


Maybe we can fit Cheney's Man size Safe down the Well.


Tell me how Cheney is impacting the cleanup ?

Where is the effort and use of technology?

This currently, is not about the past friend......
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey MiamiHurricanes09 if what you are saying is true that means that TS/TD Agatha is moving nearly east away from the higher mountains and down lower means that !#1 it will go in the W Caribbean and not die over land
That's an exaggeration, based on satellite imagery I think that that's where the center of Agatha is. Do I expect Agatha to enter the Caribbean? Yes, I at some point I'm sure Agatha will enter the Caribbean, do I think it will develop? No. Guess we'll see.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
3238. Patrap
Oil-zilla...

nite CT

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Night Pat!
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Quoting Weather456:
3216. BahaHurican 10:11 PM AST on May 29, 2010

Two eruptions occurred Thursday and Friday and 90E has been out there a while now. So the time-line supports your thinking. However, Guatemala's Pacaya Volcano is a frequently erupting volcano with a previous eruption as recent as last spring/winter 2010.
I was thinking possible phreatic effects. I sure hope that's the end of the volcanic activity for now :o(
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3235. Patrap
Oh..one more before I head up..

Lah,lah,lah..

Agatha early cycle Model guidance
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting Chicklit:
90E looking fiesty tonight.
Loop

I'm just wondering what happens if it manages to squeeze through the skinniest portion of land and make it over to the Caribbean as a remnant low.


It's been Agatha since morning, but chances are it will make it into the GOM as a remnant low and possibly redevelop.
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hey MiamiHurricanes09 if what you are saying is true that means that TS/TD Agatha is moving nearly east away from the higher mountains and down lower means that !#1 it will go in the W Caribbean and not die over land
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9553
3232. help4u
Lol Patrap!!!
Member Since: September 18, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1256
3231. leo305
there's an environmetalist on CNN trying to spin the oil spill into a good thing..

"WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF OIL IN THE OCEAN TODAY, AND IF WE LOOK BACK IN HISTORY THE GULF OIL SPILL DIDN'T REALLY REACH THE COAST, SO WE HAVE TO LOOK BACK IN HISTORY, THE GULF OIL SPILL WAS SPILLING 10-30,000 BARRELS A DAY (really?)

roflmao.. wow
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MrstormX:


Hah Ha good point, but in response to FIU I suspect that we will have no cat 5's due to atmospheric conditions. I can see many quickfire hurricanes this year like '08s Gustav that became a cat 4 extremely fast. We will probably get an Ike or two also, lets face it when Ike was out there churning in the mid Atlantic it should have been a cat 5 but the nhc is too conservative. Basically my prediction is 2008 like storms just doubled.
I agree to a point but i think there will be at least 1 category 5 storm this year but yes more category 4 storms and lower
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2570
Agatha-Alex is quite possible, but only time will tell.
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3216. BahaHurican 10:11 PM AST on May 29, 2010

Two eruptions occurred Thursday and Friday and 90E has been out there a while now. So the time-line supports your thinking. However, Guatemala's Pacaya Volcano is a frequently erupting volcano with a previous eruption as recent as last spring/winter 2010.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3227. Patrap
Well the time has come to say goodbye to you and all my friends..


Maybe we can fit Cheney's Man size Safe down the Well.














Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Either this is a stand-alone quake, or a foreshock to the M6+ earthquake I predicted earlier ONLY on the precondition that the prediction of an earthquake based on the frogs was correct.


Say it aint so !. I just heard one croak outside :-(
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15671
3225. Dakster
Quoting Patrap:
Never focus on Cat size,,focus on Impacts.

SSS Numbers are a Old scale and dont account for Surge the Killer and taker of lives.

The SSS was designed for Wind Loading on Structures.

And a Landfalling Cat 5 is very,very Rare thing.



As long as Andrew remains the anomaly fro South Florida...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SevereHurricane:


Why would you want a Cat. 5?


Hah Ha good point, but in response to FIU I suspect that we will have no cat 5's due to atmospheric conditions. I can see many quickfire hurricanes this year like '08s Gustav that became a cat 4 extremely fast. We will probably get an Ike or two also, lets face it when Ike was out there churning in the mid Atlantic it should have been a cat 5 but the nhc is too conservative. Basically my prediction is 2008 like storms just doubled.
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ADT still thinks Agatha is offshore.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WaterWitch11:
Magnitude 4.4 - SOUTHERN GREECE
2010 May 29 19:05:14 UTC

i can't believe i missed this


Either this is a stand-alone quake, or a foreshock to the M6 earthquake I predicted earlier ONLY on the precondition that the prediction of an earthquake based on the frogs was correct. I seriously hope it is the former.
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Quoting Weather456:


Math is where I got my reasoning.


I got mine from my parents and the nuns, on the seat of my pants. :)
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Quoting Patrap:
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

0115 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.
the mountains are really enhancing the convection of agatha which means more heavy rain and with the slow movement could be bad
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2570
3219. Patrap
Never focus on Cat size,,focus on Impacts.

SSS Numbers are a Old scale and dont account for Surge the Killer and taker of lives.

The SSS was designed for Wind Loading on Structures.

And a Landfalling Cat 5 is very,very Rare thing.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530


AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humour in Comments

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26493
3217. Ossqss
OK, someone tell me where my post on another blog is wrong? Take it as you will, but think of what is at stake! Here it is........ WTH is going on with this oil issue folks??????????????????
______________________________________________

For now, the oil at the surface is the issue, let alone the dispersed seas of submerged oil. Where are the fleets of SuperTanker skimmers? Where is the proven centrifuge technology that is on land ready to start taking 200 gallons a minute of oil out of the equation? 23 of those have been made public. Where are they??????

Does this administration have no clue how to run things or what/??????? Does anyone in power have any experience at running anything??/ This is total BS, total BS. WTH are they doing????

Don't give me that past administration excuse, it is not valid on the cleanup or anything else for that matter. Fundamental change has been in process and it's failing miserably on all fronts. This is just a highly visible example/ Pitiful and pathetic really..... Thank God this is not an invasion from another country or we would all be speaking a different language soon in the US!

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
Evening all.

Several points of interest tonight.

1. I'm not sure the volcanic eruption took place before the rain started or afterwards, but I have read that torrential rainfall can trigger certain types of volcanic eruptions. The bigger fear aside from just the rain now is the potential of lahars - I keep thinking abt pics of the Philipines after a volcanic eruption during a tropical cyclone...

2. Re: oil in the Keys.... this means Bahamian fishermen are going to have to watch out. I'm really curious as to how much of the oil is going to end up in "bank" areas like Florida Bay and the Great Bahama Bank and Cay Sal Bank.....

3. @ SiestaCPL..... what kind of snake is that in your avatar? [Welcome 2 the blog, btw...]
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


O yeah,..raises Bic Lighter,turns lights out and Shouts,,Encore!!!


No Zippo ?
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15671
3213. Dakster
Quoting WatchingThisOne:


I've done that kind of math. It does not lead to happy conclusions. 70,000 bbl/day is bad enough.


Unfortunately, it gets exponentially wrose the faster the velocity... The only saving grace is that there is a lot of "gas" leaving the pipe, but I never bought 5,000 BPD from the get-go.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FIU2010:


why no cat 5's, sir?


Why would you want a Cat. 5?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3211. Patrap
Quoting SiestaCpl:
Tipping my glass..or mug..to Patrap and saying adieu!
Those were the days......


O yeah,..raises Bic Lighter,turns lights out and Shouts,,Encore!!!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting WaterWitch11:
that's cool 456. i love how many things are just simple math problems. sorry it's the accounting in me!


Math is where I got my reasoning.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3209. JLPR
Quoting Weather456:


Living near a volcanic island - Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, I personally know what heavy rains can do with ash. It creates a cement-like mixture that just creates a mess.


Yeah, our cars get all dirty and we get allergies and stuff because of that volcano ¬¬
But I guess its too far from us for the cement like substance.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 5223
3208. Patrap
NOAA RAAMB

EP012010 - Tropical Depression AGATHA
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
3207. Patrap
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

0115 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.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530

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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.

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