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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could we have two centers as if the center is trying to move away from land?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2456. FIU2010
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Agatha's convection beginning to subside.


obviously, that happens when they lose their ocean source.
Quoting Claudette1234:
Last ADT report puts at 18:45 UCT puts centre of the storm at 105miles from coast 47kts

Date : 29 MAY 2010 Time : 184500 UTC
Lat : 13:13:32 N Lon : 92:56:45 W

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 / 989.6mb/ 47.0kt

The center preassure with the convertion will be about 998mb.


If that is true, Agatha I now in a new steering layer.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2453. xcool
KEEPEROFTHEGATE myimage is better j/k
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2452. Patrap
www.bloomberg.com/energy
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2451. Drakoen
Either she's making landfall or her low level and mid level center are decoupled...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30595
2450. Patrap
Quoting pottery:

I would imagine so. But I dont think that should be a consideration at all.


The spill has no Impact on Oil prices,,they falling ,and the Overall Pump Gallon is down as well. Oil reserves worldwide are stable as consumption is down overall.

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2449. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)

WTPN31 PHNC 291900
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING//
RMKS//
1.TROPICAL STORM 01E (AGATHA) WARNING NR 002
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP012010
1500 UTC SAT MAY 29 2010

CHANGES IN WATCHES AND WARNINGS WITH THIS ADVISORY...

NONE.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* THE PACIFIC COASTS OF EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO...ALL OF
GUATEMALA...AND ALL OF EL SALVADOR FROM BOCA DE PIJIJIAPAN MEXICO
SOUTHEASTWARD TO THE EL SALVADOR-HONDURAS BORDER.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

TROPICAL STORM CENTER LOCATED NEAR 13.1N 93.2W AT 29/1500Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 15 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE EAST-NORTHEAST OR 60 DEGREES AT 4 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1003 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 35 KT WITH GUSTS TO 45 KT.
34 KT....... 70NE 70SE 0SW 60NW.
WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

REPEAT...CENTER LOCATED NEAR 13.1N 93.2W AT 29/1500Z
AT 29/1200Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 13.0N 93.4W

FORECAST VALID 30/0000Z 13.4N 92.6W
MAX WIND 45 KT...GUSTS 55 KT.
34 KT... 70NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 30/1200Z 13.8N 91.9W
MAX WIND 55 KT...GUSTS 65 KT.
50 KT... 25NE 25SE 15SW 15NW.
34 KT... 70NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 31/0000Z 14.3N 91.2W...INLAND
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.
50 KT... 15NE 25SE 10SW 10NW.
34 KT... 60NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 31/1200Z 14.6N 91.1W...DISSIPATING INLAND
MAX WIND 30 KT...GUSTS 40 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z 15.0N 91.5W...DISSIPATING INLAND
MAX WIND 20 KT...GUSTS 25 KT.

EXTENDED OUTLOOK. NOTE...ERRORS FOR TRACK HAVE AVERAGED NEAR 200 NM
ON DAY 4 AND 250 NM ON DAY 5...AND FOR INTENSITY NEAR 20 KT EACH DAY

OUTLOOK VALID 02/1200Z...DISSIPATED

REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 13.1N 93.2W

NEXT ADVISORY AT 29/2100Z.//
NNNN



Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54770
Quoting xcool:


Agatha's convection beginning to subside.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Last ADT report puts at 18:45 UCT puts centre of the storm at 105miles from coast 47kts

Date : 29 MAY 2010 Time : 184500 UTC
Lat : 13:13:32 N Lon : 92:56:45 W

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 / 989.6mb/ 47.0kt

The center preassure with the convertion will be about 998mb.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WaterWitch11:
no it's not true about it failing. cut the riser?? wth

BP needs to get creative and quickly. The oil in the Gulf of Mexico is getting worse by the minute. Maybe it is time to seriously consider detonating a conventional device to seal this well. BP is drilling a relief well anyway, so they will still access the oil they found, through a different piping system.

When all is said and done, I hope measures are in place to prevent this type of disaster from ever happening again. They are estimating 22 million + gallons of oil already in the water.
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2445. IKE
BP's 'top kill' method to plug gushing Gulf Coast oil leak not working

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Saturday, May 29th 2010, 3:43 PM

COVINGTON, La. - A risky procedure to stop the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico has yet to show much success, and BP is considering scrapping it in favor of a different method to contain the worst oil spill in U.S. history, an executive said Saturday.

Read the rest of the article here...Link
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2444. Patrap

MEDIA ADVISORY: 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

Who: U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, MMS Regional Supervisor for Field Operations Mike Saucier and NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator Charlie Henry.

What: Unified Area Command briefing to update media on ongoing operations and response efforts regarding Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

Where: Shell Robert Training and Conference Center, 23260 Shell Lane in Robert, La., 70455-1928. Members of the media will enter the facility from the back gate. For a map to the back gate, click here. A Unified Area Command joint information center representative will be at the gate to escort media.

When: May 29, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. CDT. The call-in number for press unable to attend:
1-866-304-5784. International callers use 1-706-643-1612.
Passcode – 79208967.


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 3:45 p.m. This can be done on the DVIDS Web site or by calling (678) 421-6612.

For information about the response effort, visit www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.
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2443. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54770
2442. pottery
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
pottery, and that puts a huge pressure on gasoline prices here. as well.

I would imagine so. But I dont think that should be a consideration at all.
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2441. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2440. pottery
Quoting WaterWitch11:
no it's not true about it failing. cut the riser?? wth

Well, this could be speculation. But in the absence of clear updates from BP, and the fact that to date nothing has worked, I think it is fair comment.
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2439. FIU2010
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Looks like Agatha has really increased in foward motion/speed. If so, that might help it's chances of survival over the upcoming rough terrain.


not good, we want ehr to move very slowly, or else, that'll increase ehr survival outcome.
pottery, and that puts a huge pressure on gasoline prices here. as well.
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2437. Patrap
JSL Agatha

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2436. pottery
In the meantime, it's putting quite a dent in the available oil reserves....
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2435. xcool
Can't wait & see what forecasting model was right ...
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
no it's not true about it failing. cut the riser?? wth
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Looks like Agatha has really increased in foward motion/speed. If so, that might help it's chances of survival over the upcoming rough terrain.
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2432. pottery
Quoting highndry1:
Kingy: from the AP story on Yahoo News:

<>

Well, the top kill has failed, so supposedly they're going to cut off the riser. If that happens, then the rate will DEFINITELY go up - and probably from a few thousand barrels per day to 150,000+ barrels/day if they can't cap the thing - which is tough enough to do if you're Red Adair and you've got all the resources Kuwait can offer but is a little more different if you're a mile below sea level. I'm sure this will wind up being an absolute fustercluck and the whole 10 million barrels - or rather 10s of millions of barrels will come gushing out before they can get something legitimately capable of taking care of this mess.

Well, I truly hope that this does not come to pass. But I see no positives in the situation at all.
They are in a place no man (or woman, or bird in the sky or etc etc) has ever been before.
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2431. IKE
Agatha looks like she's on land or very close to it....

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2430. JRRP

see you later
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its been so hot here, that the basic storms are truly blowing up. but in the bad sense
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2428. hydrus
Quoting highndry1:
Kingy: from the AP story on Yahoo News:

<>

Well, the top kill has failed, so supposedly they're going to cut off the riser. If that happens, then the rate will DEFINITELY go up - and probably from a few thousand barrels per day to 150,000+ barrels/day if they can't cap the thing - which is tough enough to do if you're Red Adair and you've got all the resources Kuwait can offer but is a little more different if you're a mile below sea level. I'm sure this will wind up being an absolute fustercluck and the whole 10 million barrels - or rather 10s of millions of barrels will come gushing out before they can get something legitimately capable of taking care of this mess.
bp Sux.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


It was during Katrina. The night Wilma blew up most of us were on another blog.

There were not that many people here during Katrina, and in July 2005 many blog entries have less than 50 comments. Most are from CJNEW, EmmyRose, GetReal, Stormtop, me, IKE, Jedkins01, outrocket and HurricaneKing. With quite a few others from people who have completely disappeared from the blogs.


You forgot this piece of wood here.
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Agatha sure has increased in forward motion by the looks of things.
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Kingy: from the AP story on Yahoo News:

<>

Well, the top kill has failed, so supposedly they're going to cut off the riser. If that happens, then the rate will DEFINITELY go up - and probably from a few thousand barrels per day to 150,000+ barrels/day if they can't cap the thing - which is tough enough to do if you're Red Adair and you've got all the resources Kuwait can offer but is a little more different if you're a mile below sea level. I'm sure this will wind up being an absolute fustercluck and the whole 10 million barrels - or rather 10s of millions of barrels will come gushing out before they can get something legitimately capable of taking care of this mess.
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2424. pottery
Patrap, 2419.
Man, you are making me chuckle out loud here.
Cheers!
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2423. Drakoen
Agatha at the center of this image accord to those coordinates:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30595
2422. Drakoen
Quoting BenBIogger:


Just 15-20 miles off the coast of Guatemala.


Yup and that was 2 hours ago.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30595
2421. Patrap
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anyone got a Nexrad image on the area of South Florida?
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2419. Patrap
Quoting kingy:
does anyone think that the flow rate of the oil has increased substantially?


Well I can tell ya from sperience,,after a colonoscopy on my BOP,,things flowed a lot faster.


That was always a possibility with top kill as well,..the procedure didnt do nothing cept worsen the BOP woes and thats allowing the hole pressure to rise ,as the BOP fails more..
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2418. pottery
Quoting pottery:
One thing For Sure. Agatha will never be a pretty storm. Not with a name like that!

Not really possible to confirm. It LOOKS so to me. But without comparative video from all the leaks, and an idea of how much of the flow is mud etc., it is hard to know.
But in any case, approx 15.000 barrels per day, X 34 days X 44 gal per Barrel, then X all the way to August (and beyond??) and you get to realise that a million more or less is , well, not an issue.
Big bad crap going on there....

SO SORRY. THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO POST 2411, KINGY.
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Quoting Drakoen:
29/1745 UTC 14.2N 92.5W T2.5/2.5 AGATHA -- East Pacific


Just 15-20 miles off the coast of Guatemala.
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2416. Patrap
Received and copied 5 x 5, back atcha

Ooh Rah...
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2415. Drakoen
29/1745 UTC 14.2N 92.5W T2.5/2.5 AGATHA -- East Pacific
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30595
Pat, also posted on Facebook.
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Information sent to your wuba account Patrap. Thank you, Semper Fi.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
We are definietly close to landfall. NHC might be off on timing.


no wait.. you said Monday remember hehe
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2411. kingy
does anyone think that the flow rate of the oil has increased substantially?
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2410. pottery
One thing For Sure. Agatha will never be a pretty storm. Not with a name like that!
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2409. Patrap
I can sometimes go back and look at the K archive days and synch up the times pre, During and post storm...and remember what was going on here, as it was being discussed on the blog.

I didnt become a blogger till April 06

Its good therapy and a good reminder .
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Also, here's a question: African dust acts as nucleation sites for moist air to turn into clouds and rain, but because it generally reflects light it's seen as an inhibitor for hurricane formation - right? However, in the case of a petroleum spill the size of Pennsylvania, all those volatile compounds in the air should act as nucleation sites for any forming hurricane, but those chemicals DON'T generally reflect light. Moreover, while the surface oil should have a net effect of water evaporation, any forming storm should disrupt the water and negate that effect so shouldn't this oil spill be a net positive for hurricane formation? Any comments?
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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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