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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BP operates just as most of the majors do in the mining industry..oil producers and mining groups consider everything under our feet theirs and often forget that we must still live on the ground they disturb..or ruin...
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I haven't checked the center coordinates. Is that an eye or an optical illusion?
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Agatha is now officially a TD.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3104. Patrap
Quoting SiestaCpl:
I am familiar with that mentality from BP Patrap, I have been a consultant in mining for 28 years in Africa and South America..always consulting on the side of doing smaller projects with proper conservative project plans..why do something too fast and blow the mine...I usually lose those arguments...they would rather lose 20-40% of a mine's capabilities for a fast turnaround..and of course enviromental issues be damned..


well ya know how the game is played Im sure.

BP Let that Catcracker in Houston Go BOOM 5 years ago,killing 15 and hurt a bunch.

They got fined 75 million and Built a Bigger reformer and regenerator.

Go figure?
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You don't want to look anymore. It's just a oil volcano with no end insight, save yourself the grief.There is always a miracle ,so everyone say a prayer if you are so disposed.
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HWRF 18z putting Agatha just east of Cozumel with winds of 33 knots. I doubt it, on the other hand, I like the track.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3101. EricSFL
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Nope, that was issued at 8:00 PM EDT which in turn is 5:00 PM PST. I really don't know why at 5:00 PM the NHC didn't downgrade Agatha to a TD.


You're right. I did not notice the different time zone.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
25% of the GOM is messed up now! unreal


Have no fear. BP will achieve messing up the GOM 100% soon
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3099. Patrap
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I am familiar with that mentality from BP Patrap, I have been a consultant in mining for 28 years in Africa and South America..always consulting on the side of doing smaller projects with proper conservative project plans..why do something too fast and blow the mine...I usually lose those arguments...they would rather lose 20-40% of a mine's capabilities for a fast turnaround..and of course enviromental issues be damned..
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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.
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Magnitude 4.4 - SOUTHERN GREECE
2010 May 29 19:05:14 UTC

i can't believe i missed this
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3095. Patrap
Anytime pc
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Thanks Pat
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Quoting EricSFL:
MiamiHurricanes09 so it has not moved much since the 5:00 PM advisory.
Nope, that was issued at 8:00 PM EDT which in turn is 5:00 PM PST. I really don't know why at 5:00 PM the NHC didn't downgrade Agatha to a TD.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3092. Patrap
Quoting PanhandleChuck:
Is there still any live webcams of the oil from the deepwater. I heard that BP cut it off


The link is in the Doc's entry above..

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
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25% of the GOM is messed up now! unreal
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Quoting Weather456:


I'm not sure what that means.

They were preparing for Agatha indirectly, in that, many had already evacuated due to the volcanic eruption on Friday, so not many were around to see Agatha.


I'm concerned where they evacuated the people to. They had no idea of Agatha I would imagine. This picture is from today and it doesn't look like they are thinking heavy rains. I hope people didn't evacuate to areas that put them in danger of Agatha.



Residents sweep ash off the streets in Guatemala City a day after the Pacaya volcano erupted.
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Is there still any live webcams of the oil from the deepwater. I heard that BP cut it off
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3087. EricSFL
MiamiHurricanes09 so it has not moved much since the 5:00 PM advisory.
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It maybe about to enter hostel condition upper level wise, but the outflow pattern is as good as it gets right now. That's why there are so many commies on this blog it and the internet is free.
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You can clearly see the effects of warm air pushed up 12,000 ft mountains with huge thunderstorms quickly rising and blowing out and then reforming...these cause the horrendous floods that kill.
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Agatha is moving faster because it does not want to die it want to live in the W Caribbean then die later either in the Bahamas or Florida
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
3083. Patrap
Quoting SiestaCpl:
Patrap, any ideas on the possibility of major fissures around the original drill pipe of the Deepwater Horizon? They have again brought up the subject as one which has caused the failure of the "mud" injection. There fissures or a massive system of fissures could have formed around the outside of the drill casing when they failed to use a "mud fill" when they laid their first two failed seals before the explosion....any word there in LA circles?


There is a lot of talk in the forums on the casing and how all that went down.

No pun intended.

But heres some insight on BP and how they do things.

2 Facts.

BP submitted a EPA Plan or something thats required for the wildlife impact,..
They Highlighted Walruses in the plan.

BP allowed TransOcean to lay off half the engine rooms mechanical maintenance crews to save costs.

When the Power surge during the Blowout ran the engines Up and they failed,the well control was lost at that moment.

Im going to do a entry next week with those and more highlights.

BP Punched a hole in Hells Sewer,,38 days ago. What you've seen since is windowdressing





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3082. Levi32
Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclone activity is still running below-normal for May. As of May 24th, the average ACE by this time of year is 32. We're still stuck at 9, and Agatha will not add much to that. The slower the rest of the hemisphere starts, the better for the Atlantic.

Ryan Maue has some interesting thoughts on the recent NHC predictions for the Atlantic hurricane season.

"14 hurricanes ? 23 storms ? really?

Historically, the North Atlantic hurricane activity is usually characterized as a feast or a famine, thus making definitions of what is normal difficult. In "active" periods (1995-present), a "normal" season sees a tremendous amount of hurricane activity compared to the inactive period of ~1970-1994. In the above figure, the light blue line indicates the linear trend of NATL ACE from 1950-2009 -- a 60-year period of decent records -- and the line is flat. No trend since 1950. When seasonal forecasting outfits like Gray & Klotzbach at CSU and Tropical Storms Risk, etc. debut their upcoming seasonal forecast, they represent an entire season's worth of activity in an integrated sense either by predicting counts/frequency or ACE. However, there is no reason to assume that the entire period between June - November will experience the same favorable/unfavorable atmosphere/ocean conditions with respect to tropical cyclone formation. Indeed, the North Atlantic tends to spurt activity. For instance, one storm after another may form from African Easterly Waves and trek across the Main Development Region consecutively during the peak of the season.

The SH season was normal for 2009-2010. During the last 30-years, looking at the SH prior to the North Atlantic hurricane season is an excellent predictor of future activity (Maue 2010, Trop Conference). Indeed, one can expect at least normal activity this upcoming year, but likely not the extreme or hyperactive season at the HIGH END of forecasts expected by Gray, Accuweather, and others. One must keep a global context in mind when it comes to hurricane activity. Does it make any sense to consider El Nino as a major driver or inhibitor of North Atlantic activity but completely ignore what is going on in the other basins like the Western and Eastern Pacific? One must have a global perspective..."


One thing is that although easily-accessible data on southern hemisphere TC activity is limited, what data I have found doesn't seem to agree with his claim that the preceding southern hemisphere season is an excellent predictor of the north Atlantic season.

Looking at the southern hemisphere TC counts versus the North Atlantic, it doesn't seem to be the strongest correlation in the world.





Also, his talk about "global perspective" is very sensible, but he himself does not have a good "global perspective" if he still thinks the ENSO is the driver behind everything. I do wish he'd go into more detail in these posts, as I would like to hear more of where he's coming from.
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3080. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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3079. EricSFL
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



Link


Thank you.
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3078. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting EricSFL:
Hey KEEPER can you please post the link to the Plymouth satellite loop of Agatha. Thanks



Link
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Patrap, any ideas on the possibility of major fissures around the original drill pipe of the Deepwater Horizon? They have again brought up the subject as one which has caused the failure of the "mud" injection. There fissures or a massive system of fissures could have formed around the outside of the drill casing when they failed to use a "mud fill" when they laid their first two failed seals before the explosion....any word there in LA circles?
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TD Agatha seems to be moving quicker now.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3074. Makoto1
Quoting WaterWitch11:
someone posted this the other day:

Athens: Traffic was paralysed along a highway in northern Greece for several hours Wednesday after thousands of frogs suddenly jumped onto the road, startling drivers.

Drivers along the Egnatia Highway, which runs between the northern port city of Thessaloniki to the Turkish border on the Evros River, said the frogs appeared out of nowhere, causing a handful of traffic accidents and paralysing traffic.

Traffic police spent nearly two hours trying to clear the frogs from the highway.

Experts were at a loss to explain the bizarre phenomenon.


i think as long is there is no big earthquakes, i'll stop freaking out!

but i kinda doubt that one


I saw a video of that the other day on TV, I forget exactly where. Might have been the Weather Channel actually... It's real, but really weird.

This is my luck, I lurk for days and the day I'm busy is when something forms and hits land. Hopefully things aren't too bad in Guatemala, though hearing there are deaths already really worries me.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
We no longer have Tropical storm Agatha. Now we have Tropical Depression Agatha.

EP, 01, 2010053000, , BEST, 0, 147N, 921W, 30, 1003, TD,
i dont bilieve it will make it to the caribbean or gulf intact.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Is there a graph that shows forecasted steering?

*Nice, I'm the first 3000th poster this year, do I win a cookie?
Not this year, on this blog. Whenever it is a new blog it starts over at 1.
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
I say if theres a cat 5 out there easily 7000 posts maybe more if its threatining the US


Or if there's a major hurricane about to hit New York after zipping through Haiti and Miami, 20,000+!
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


That's from the volcano, even before the tropical storm.


That is incorrect.

The volcano erupted on Friday while 90E was offshore dumping heavy rains over the country.

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a “state of calamity” as the first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, Agatha, flooded about 600 homes and killed four people the day after a volcanic eruption. A fifth person died in El Salvador.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
We no longer have Tropical storm Agatha. Now we have Tropical Depression Agatha.

EP, 01, 2010053000, , BEST, 0, 147N, 921W, 30, 1003, TD,
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
someone posted this the other day:

Athens: Traffic was paralysed along a highway in northern Greece for several hours Wednesday after thousands of frogs suddenly jumped onto the road, startling drivers.

Drivers along the Egnatia Highway, which runs between the northern port city of Thessaloniki to the Turkish border on the Evros River, said the frogs appeared out of nowhere, causing a handful of traffic accidents and paralysing traffic.

Traffic police spent nearly two hours trying to clear the frogs from the highway.

Experts were at a loss to explain the bizarre phenomenon.


i think as long is there is no big earthquakes, i'll stop freaking out!

but i kinda doubt that one
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
A lot of the models showing a successful pass to the ATL. OHHH that TCVN would be messy, eeek.



The BAMM scenario would be even worse, could threaten New York.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
See the Guatemala volcano made "Lady E" jealous, now she is trowing off an ash/steam cloud up to about 10-12,000 feet. Link below:

Link
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Weather456:
There is also a state of calamity in the country.


That's from the volcano, even before the tropical storm.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
I dont know if anyone knew this but guatamala has 14 inches of rain in just a few days and its still raining this could be bad im praying for those guys down there even if this storm is so called "Weak" its a killer.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
As Patrap pointed out yesterday, on June 1st Jeff Masters will be having a weather broadcast, expect a lot of new bloggers to join the WU community. Also starting June 1st admin will be in full force, so watch out.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting JamesSA:

There is already convection popping up on the Gulf off Honduras side. I say she may re-develop on the Caribbean side.


That could mean a Fujuwhara interaction should we get two or more CoC's developing as it emerges into the Atlantic basin.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
3060. Patrap


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In this case I would be careful with the TVCN, as it only needs a minimum of 2 of the models.
TCON requires all of the models present, and in the latest run only goes out 12 hours.
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


I am not sure of the warning system in the area but, I am sure these people were preparing for tomorrows storm.


I'm not sure what that means.

They were preparing for Agatha indirectly, in that, many had already evacuated due to the volcanic eruption on Friday, so not many were around to see Agatha.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


2010 is going to be a hyperactive season on a hyperactive Internet and a hyperactive weather community. I wouldn't be surprised to see a blog over 7,500+ comments.
I agree going to be a hectic year on the blogs i guess i picked a good year to start posting.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572

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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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