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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2157. IKE
Quoting JamesSA:
Yeah, that is oil. Oil rises, mud sinks.

I would say top kill has failed and they just haven't delivered the bad news yet.


They'll probably announce it at about 4 am Sunday when very few are paying attention.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
2156. kingy
the oil cam is back live and it aint looking pretty.

I know they claim to have pumped a full boat load of mud down that well but the oil is back to full flow. From where I'm sitting they aint made a dent in that well and its still coming.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
To those who find it important to see BP ROV feed at current time and date, go here:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-rov-video

(I guess they haven't got the memo to be a part of the vast military/industrial/government coverup...)
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6069
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
BAMM and LBAR both bring Agatha (future TD One/Alex?) to a landfall near Punta Gorda/Cape Coral/Naples, Florida.

Hope that changes, I'm in Cape Coral
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting skep:
BP news conference coming up soon on CNN! Lets see what they have to say, except that all is going as planned ;)


Yeah, listening to them is like putting a pre-made speech on loop.
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2152. Patrap

Quoting Asta:

No- I did not say that.
I meant that I think Florida has more political clout that Louisiana.
beaches were mentioned by the President encouraging people to visit Gulf Beaches and not once mentioning the wetlands in his Speech.


LOL...I wunder why Fla, Gov.Crist was in Grand Isle then yesterday standing next to Jindal then?

Territorial peeing contest are for the LAMEST of minds.

.."Calamity knows no Borders,only mens Minds and maps do"..
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2151. Levi32
Quoting Asta:

Then NOAA should do it..
My question about the wind and oil is this:
How airborne can it get? and how far inland can it blow? Are we talking about concern over a 35mph or a 75mph storm??? and how much oil can a system carry with it??? how far?? anybody know any data or research on this?


From what I've heard it's pretty hard to whip oil up into the air with the wind. The oil itself reduces wave action and sea-spray. I don't think it's going to be "raining oil" if a hurricane comes ashore in the area, but I'm not positive on that.
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2150. skep
BP news conference coming up soon on CNN! Lets see what they have to say, except that all is going as planned ;)
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Quoting leo305:


it's getting too close to land for that, and the anticylone over it has weakened


Not according to the NHC:
"SINCE AGATHA WILL BE MOVING SLOWLY OVER VERY WARM SSTS OF AT LEAST
30C AND WITHIN A REGION OF LOW VERTICAL WIND SHEAR...ADDITIONAL
STRENGTHENING SEEMS REASONABLE. THE SHIPS MODEL IS INDICATING A
NEAR 40 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAPID STRENGTHENING DURING THE NEXT 24
HOURS...AND THIS POSSIBILITY WILL BE CLOSELY ASSESSED FOR THE NEXT
FORECAST PACKAGE IF THE RECENT CONVECTIVE DEVELOPMENT TREND
CONTINUES INTO THE AFTERNOON HOURS WHEN THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY
OFTENTIMES WEAKENS."
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This is showing the correct time so it must be working...

http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/homepage/STAGING/local_assets /bp_homepage/html/rov_stream.html
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2147. Asta
Quoting msgambler:
Asta, you saying that the reason they are not capping it faster is because FL can't smell it yet. GET REAL!!!!!!!!!

No- I did not say that.
I meant that I think Florida has more political clout that Louisiana.
beaches were mentioned by the President encouraging people to visit Gulf Beaches and not once mentioning the wetlands in his Speech.
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
BAMM and LBAR both bring Agatha (future TD One/Alex?) to a landfall near Punta Gorda/Cape Coral/Naples, Florida.

Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2840
2145. JamesSA
Quoting rarepearldesign:
The ROV looks to be sitting higher above the leak and it looks VERY black.
Yeah, that is oil. Oil rises, mud sinks.

I would say top kill has failed and they just haven't delivered the bad news yet.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2144. leo305
Quoting AllStar17:
Agatha continues to produce robust convective activity. I would not count out rapid strengthening at some point.


it's getting too close to land for that, and the anticylone over it has weakened
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Asta:

Please don't tell me what to love sir.

I live 50 miles inland- North of Robert where They are meeting- I've smelled it here and closer in Metairie and New Orleans-and I can tell you that it burns your eyes and gives you a headache after awhile.
If the winds will blow it towards FLA.. then perhaps they will cap it faster.


I think he meant it as a joke, to lighten the mood a bit. His post did include some good information though... that you will have winds from the South over the next week which may blow oil closer to the shore and the oil odors over the coastal communities.

We are all concerned about the oil and getting this mess stopped. Nobody I know of thinks it's a funny situation at all.
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2142. Patrap
Quoting FIU2010:
g'afternoon, all, i see that the models are still expecting agatha to hit us, ^_^.



Oh I hope so

And its still morning in 3 time Zones..
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good morning,

so once again confusion has set in. the cam's are working yes or no?
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2139. Asta
Quoting Levi32:


If I lived down there I certainly would. It wouldn't come from the NHC though. NOAA would do it. The NHC are not experts on oil.

Then NOAA should do it..
My question about the wind and oil is this:
How airborne can it get? and how far inland can it blow? Are we talking about concern over a 35mph or a 75mph storm??? and how much oil can a system carry with it??? how far?? anybody know any data or research on this?
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
Asta, you saying that the reason they are not capping it faster is because FL can't smell it yet. GET REAL!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Agatha continues to produce robust convective activity. I would not count out rapid strengthening at some point.
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2135. Levi32
Quoting hydrus:
He is one of the most knowledgeable people i have seen when it comes to tropical meteorology .


Indeed he is.
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**REPOST**
TROPICAL STORM AGATHA
11 am EDT Graphics Update
STORM TRACK:

ADVISORIES:
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2133. Patrap
Yeah,,the Fla influence carries a lotta clout.


Chads gave us 8 years of it.


Pltttt..LOL
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2132. hydrus
Quoting Levi32:


Storm does not. However, he has many years of forecasting experience under his belt from forecasting for the Coast Guard, and he knows as much as any Met and more.
He is one of the most knowledgeable people i have seen when it comes to tropical meteorology .
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 24767
The ROV looks to be sitting higher above the leak and it looks VERY black.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2130. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Patrap:
Im more a crazed blogger with a attitude than a met..easily.

But I did stay in a FEMA trailer for 27 Months.

And that Trumps a Holiday INN Xpress One night stay easily.

its those chemicals in those trailers that made ya crazy pat
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59118
2129. Asta
Quoting kingy:
those of you in the northern gulf get a weeks worth of winds from the south or south west to come. Some of you might start learning to love the smell of oil in the morning

Please don't tell me what to love sir.

I live 50 miles inland- North of Robert where They are meeting- I've smelled it here and closer in Metairie and New Orleans-and I can tell you that it burns your eyes and gives you a headache after awhile.
If the winds will blow it towards FLA.. then perhaps they will cap it faster.
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
2128. Levi32
Quoting Patrap:


For a copy and paste,,u betcha


Excuse me?
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2127. Levi32
Quoting Asta:


Let me put it another way- if you are living along or planning a visit to the coast- do you WANT an OIL and sludge forecast?? and also from what agency? Personally I'd like to hear it from NOAA, NHC, or the METS...


If I lived down there I certainly would. It wouldn't come from the NHC though. NOAA would do it. The NHC are not experts on oil.
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2126. Patrap
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2124. will45
Man that leak looks pretty black to me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


Storm does not. However, he has many years of forecasting experience under his belt from forecasting for the Coast Guard, and he knows as much as any Met and more.


Yeah your correct levi. Not sure if its official for StormW..but its close enough. He is respected.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2122. Asta
Quoting Levi32:


I'm going to college this fall but since I'm in Alaska Meteorology will have to wait until graduate school.


Let me put it another way- if you are living along or planning a visit to the coast- do you WANT an OIL and sludge forecast?? and also from what agency? Personally I'd like to hear it from NOAA, NHC, or the METS...
Member Since: July 4, 2008 Posts: 30 Comments: 1024
Quoting hydrus:
Weather 456 has acquired his bachelors degree. I am sure storm has one too.


Yeah we all have our degrees or in school. StormW got his thru coast guard or military I think? I dont remember. Yeah 456 does a good job also.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2120. breald
Quoting Patrap:
Dr. Jeff Masters on NOLA WWL News Radio,the Spud Show,.early this week.

Oil and Hurricanes discussion.

.."That just Bite's"..




Thanks for posting Pat!!
Member Since: May 28, 2008 Posts: 38 Comments: 5303
2119. Levi32
Quoting hydrus:
Weather 456 has acquired his bachelors degree. I am sure storm has one too.


Storm does not. However, he has many years of forecasting experience under his belt from forecasting for the Coast Guard, and he knows as much as any Met and more.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2118. Patrap
Im more a crazed blogger with a attitude than a met..easily.

But I did stay in a FEMA trailer for 27 Months.

And that Trumps a Holiday INN Xpress One night stay easily.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2117. hydrus
Quoting scottsvb:


I think there is only StormW that is a Met in here, I , and I think 456,levi are in college for it? Am I wrong? I guess there might be others I dont know of.
Weather 456 has acquired his bachelors degree. I am sure storm has one too.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 24767
Quoting Levi32:


I'm going to college this fall but since I'm in Alaska Meteorology will have to wait until graduate school.


Well you do a very good job in here. I respect your insights
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2115. kingy
those of you in the northern gulf get a weeks worth of winds from the south or south west to come. Some of you might start learning to love the smell of oil in the morning
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Quoting Patrap:
I wonder if they use Tiger Woods Titelist balls for the Junk Shot..?


Maybe threw in tires from the Escalade?
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2113. Levi32
Quoting scottsvb:


I think there is only StormW that is a Met in here, I , and I think 456,levi are in college for it? Am I wrong? I guess there might be others I dont know of.


I'm going to college this fall but since I'm in Alaska Meteorology will have to wait until graduate school. 456 already has a Meteorology job in the Antilles islands and has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science.
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2112. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting msgambler:
Why not, they been spending alot of time in the water anyway.....LOL
LOL
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59118
Quoting Asta:
My question to all you METs out there is this:
Will this year's GOM hurricane Forecasts
also include OIL casts..
since the winds will push that
crude and crud along with it???


The Oil problem is huge... we can really say anything cause of the changing wind patterns and loop currents. Its a mess!

I think there is only StormW that is a Met in here, I , and I think 456,levi are in college for it? Am I wrong? I guess there might be others I dont know of.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2110. skep
Quoting msgambler:
my live feed says 11:22 but it isn't really showing anything

Thats the BP Stream, the one on CNN shows old video..
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Quoting Patrap:
I wonder if they use Tiger Woods Titelist balls for the Junk Shot..?
Why not, they been spending alot of time in the water anyway.....LOL
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2108. Patrap
I wonder if they use Tiger Woods Titelist balls for the Junk Shot..?
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my live feed says 11:22 but it isn't really showing anything
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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