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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my live feed says 11:22 but it isn't really showing anything
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2106. Levi32
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???


There will not be any official "forecasts" of the oil, but I imagine the NHC will likely comment on the implications in the event that a hurricane moves towards the spill and could potentially push oil towards land. Other agencies would likely issue statements about the oil if a hurricane were to push it around.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2105. Patrap
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2104. Asta
Quoting Patrap:



Thats the plan,..and in the past blowouts,..thats the only proven procedure,,to Bottom Kill the Blowout Hole from underneath,..they tap just under the casing or bottom of the bore,then pump sand and seawater from under to staunch the rogue well.


I like saying "rogue"

Yeah- I got "rogue" roots too...LOL!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2103. JamesSA
Quoting IKE:


Mine has today's date at 6 am.
Yeah, early this morning to be more precise. I watched them load a file and click 'play' right on the screen. It said about 4:30 when they started it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2102. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
Reuters 15 min ago

BP Oil Spill Live Feed and BP Top Kill Procedure Status Update

May 29th, 2010


BP Oil Spill Live Feed and BP Top Kill Procedure Status Update. As millions of gallons of oil have been spewed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, people are waiting with bated breath to see if the Top Kill procedure works. If so, the oil will stop spewing into the Gulf and people can focus on cleanup – which could take years or even decades.

Not sure how the top kill procedure works? Click here to view an animated video and see a diagram of how the procedure is designed to plug the leak.

Those who are keeping an eye on the BP oil spill live feed know that there is still something spewing out of the leak at a high rate, and that it looks darker – meaning more oil is entering the waters. Almost 96 hours into the procedure many thought the leak would be plugged

BP contends that it appears “promising” that the leak will be plugged by the top kill method, but that they have a “number of options” incase it doesn’t work.

Further more, BP has attempted what is called “junk shot” twice along with the top kill in a method to clog the blowout preventer and plug the leak. Junk shot involves trying to plug the leak with solid waste such as golf balls, rubber tires etc.

Source:

Reuters


Just as I thought.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
2101. Patrap
Quoting Asta:
PAtrap- Even if they drill the two relief wells- it there a guarantee that this one will stop leaking??



Thats the plan,..and in the past blowouts,..thats the only proven procedure,,to Bottom Kill the Blowout Hole from underneath,..they tap just under the casing or bottom of the bore,then pump sand and seawater from under to staunch the rogue well.


I like saying "rogue"
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2100. 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???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2099. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)

UW - CIMSS
ADVANCED DVORAK TECHNIQUE
ADT-Version 8.1.1
Tropical Cyclone Intensity Algorithm

----- Current Analysis -----
Date : 29 MAY 2010 Time : 151500 UTC
Lat : 13:06:30 N Lon : 93:10:59 W


CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
2.6 / 995.8mb/ 37.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
2.6 2.7 3.1

Latitude bias adjustment to MSLP : +0.0mb

Center Temp : -68.4C Cloud Region Temp : -70.2C

Scene Type : UNIFORM CDO CLOUD REGION

Positioning Method : FORECAST INTERPOLATION

Ocean Basin : EAST PACIFIC
Dvorak CI > MSLP Conversion Used : PACIFIC

Tno/CI Rules : Constraint Limits : 0.2T/hour
Weakening Flag : OFF
Rapid Dissipation Flag : OFF

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2098. scott39
Agatha looks like its moving more NE now than ENE.
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
2097. Levi32
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Could someone explain the 'tri-pole' to me a little more? Thanks.


The Atlantic tripole is an SST pattern in the Atlantic that likes to show itself when the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) is warm. When the tripole is positive, you get warmer than normal water in the tropics, colder than normal waters in the mid latitudes, and warmer than normal waters again in the arctic areas of the Atlantic north of 50N.

Here is an example with a graphic of the SSTs during some of our analog years for this hurricane season. Note that since this graphic was made I removed 1970 and 1978 as analog years, but the signature of the positive Atlantic tripole is still quite distinct, and that's all I'm trying to show you here.



A positive Atlantic tripole has very favorable affects on the hurricane season by focusing heat and convergence in the deep tropics south of 20N, as the cold water in the mid-latitude belt promotes net sinking of air, and the warm water over the deep tropics promotes net upward motion. The cold water to the north also supports the Bermuda High residing farther west than normal.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2096. IKE
Quoting JamesSA:
The CNN feed is showing recorded video from last night on their "live" feed. Notice the time display.


Mine has today's date at 6 am.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
I have to go, bye!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2094. Patrap
Reuters 15 min ago

BP Oil Spill Live Feed and BP Top Kill Procedure Status Update

May 29th, 2010


BP Oil Spill Live Feed and BP Top Kill Procedure Status Update. As millions of gallons of oil have been spewed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, people are waiting with bated breath to see if the Top Kill procedure works. If so, the oil will stop spewing into the Gulf and people can focus on cleanup – which could take years or even decades.

Not sure how the top kill procedure works? Click here to view an animated video and see a diagram of how the procedure is designed to plug the leak.

Those who are keeping an eye on the BP oil spill live feed know that there is still something spewing out of the leak at a high rate, and that it looks darker – meaning more oil is entering the waters. Almost 96 hours into the procedure many thought the leak would be plugged

BP contends that it appears “promising” that the leak will be plugged by the top kill method, but that they have a “number of options” incase it doesn’t work.

Further more, BP has attempted what is called “junk shot” twice along with the top kill in a method to clog the blowout preventer and plug the leak. Junk shot involves trying to plug the leak with solid waste such as golf balls, rubber tires etc.

Source:

Reuters
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2093. Asta
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Quoting Patrap:
One next plan is to cut the bent riser off at the top of the BOP,,and then Place a second,BOP in Place above the damaged one.


But if I were a betting man,..I'd be rooting for the DD-2 Relief Well crews.
They working 2 12 hours shifts.
PAtrap- Even if they drill the two relief wells- it there a guarantee that this one will stop leaking??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
MiamiHurricanes09 - 12z Agatha Forecast Cone.

*Keep in mind this is my forecast cone and it can be completely wrong.



2 computer models show it impacting Florida, while half of the computer models on the wunderground site show it going into the Gulf Of Mexico. Is this in line with your thinking?
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we have TS Agatha.

This will be first Eastern Pacific storm even if it moves into Western Caribbean , right?

hello everyone,
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2090. JamesSA
Quoting IKE:
Still looks like oil spewing out in the GOM.
The CNN feed is showing recorded video from last night on their "live" feed. Notice the time display.
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Pat, didn't they do the junk shot yesterday? If that has beed done and still no luck with the top kill,well I won't finish the rest of the story.
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2088. Patrap
It is Ike...no Joy on top Kill ..as far as Im hearing.
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2087. IKE
Still looks like oil spewing out in the GOM.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
2086. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2085. Patrap
One next plan is to cut the bent riser off at the top of the BOP,,and then Place a second,BOP in Place above the damaged one.


But if I were a betting man,..I'd be rooting for the DD-2 Relief Well crews.
They working 2 12 hours shifts.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
GFS 12z 126 Hours

*Just some moisture over south Florida.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
I will miss steve lyons at twc. but I think Dr Knabb will do a great job also he has like 15yrs experience working at the hurricane center
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Quoting IKE:
12Z GFS shows very little in the GOM through 108 hours. Dropped the low in the eastern GOM.
Yup. I can guarantee one thing. No TD in the Atlantic before June 1st.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2081. kingy
if the top kill is failing it is the last thing the gulf needs. Imagine another 3 months of this (assuming BP's other plans do actually work, Lord help them if they are as helpless as I truly fear they are)

No matter what they try it ain't been tried at these depths before. I wonder whether this baby will be spewing oil at the end of august
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2080. IKE
12Z GFS shows very little in the GOM through 108 hours. Dropped the low in the eastern GOM.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Good afternoon everyone i see we have tropical storm Agatha off the coast of guatamala lets see if it can survive the perilous terrain that is guatamala. which i doubt it will but a piece of energy could come off and develop butit would have to do it in a hurry because to its north theres killer shear that would kill anything that would try to develop.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Could someone explain the 'tri-pole' to me a little more? Thanks.
The sea-surface temperature (SST) tripole, with warm anomalies off the east coast of the United States and cold anomalies north of 40°N and south of 25°N, is the leading mode of interannual variability in wintertime North Atlantic SST. Its influence on northwest African rainfall is investigated by using a large-ensemble of GCM simulations. Firstly the modeled basin-scale rainfall impact is displayed, and the results suggest: in early-mid winter (November–January), a positive SST tripole causes a reduced rainfall extending from the tropical North Atlantic northeastward to Mediterranean while a negative SST causes a south-north increased rainfall across the central Atlantic from the subtropics to the midlatitude. In late winter (February–April) a positive SST tripole causes a reduced rainfall in the central Atlantic from the subtropics to the midlatitude while a negative SST tripole induces a zonal increased rainfall from the subtropics to Mediterranean. The asymmetry and seasonal dependence of the SST influence on the basin-scale rainfall is consistent with the nonlinear response of the large-scale atmospheric circulation. Under the large-scale impact background, northwest Africa regional rainfall response is also nonlinear and seasonally dependent. In early-mid winter a positive SST tripole causes reduced rainfall, while a negative SST has little effect. In late winter a negative SST tripole induces increased rainfall, while a positive tripole has little effect. A similarly large-scale asymmetric association between SST and rainfall-circulation exists in observations in late winter, while the observed seasonal dependence of this association is relatively weak. Also, a similar SST tripole association with the regional rainfall over the northwest coast of Africa exists in observations.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
I dont see anything in the tropics for the GOM. The convection you see off the Yucitan for the past few days is convective feedback problems the GFS has every year in May-June. The CMC always takes something and explodes it up. Now I wont say 100% nothing will develop. Just trends and history in the models gives this a 10% chance.
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1723
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Wow, look at the Atlantic tri-pole. That's pretty crazy.


Could someone explain the 'tri-pole' to me a little more? Thanks.
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2075. Patrap
Dr. Jeff Masters on NOLA WWL News Radio,the Spud Show,.early this week.

Oil and Hurricanes discussion.

.."That just Bite's"..

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:

is anyone watching the rov feed?


I'm watching it. It is extremely frustrating: on the one hand, this is absolutely brilliant, straight out of clive clussler, on the other hand, it seems really awkward, if they could do just a little bit better...
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LOL opps busted
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2072. Patrap
Hurricanes only affect the top 500 ft of a water column,,below that,,nothing changes.
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2071. Patrap
Hiya ms..I heard you met the fam yesterday,..LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2070. scott39
Quoting Patrap:
Top Kill was a Long shot as its never been done at that Depth.

And if they cut a inlet feed,,its over and unsuccessful.
The reason i asked was if it is succesfull, how will it hold up to a major hurricane?
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
2069. Asta
Quoting Patrap:
Top Kill was a Long shot as its never been done at that Depth.

And if they cut a inlet feed,,its over and unsuccessful.

I have very little faith in them so far...
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morning Pat
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2067. Patrap
The Saw carrying ROV is coming up...the procedure is complete with it .
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2066. Asta
Quoting scott39:
Is the Top Kill a temp solution or a more permanant one?
Quoting scott39:
Is the Top Kill a temp solution or a more permanant one?

They have never tried it in water this deep. We don't know if it will work or not.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2065. divdog
Quoting will45:



well they fixin to cut something they have a saw down there



my bad i was looking at the wrong feed. looks like soimethin is fixin to happen
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Quoting Motttt:
rov Link

is anyone watching the rov feed?
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
2063. Patrap
Top Kill was a Long shot as its never been done at that Depth.

And if they cut a inlet feed,,its over and unsuccessful.
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12Z GFS @ 78hrs Showing a piece of energy moving NE off the western tip of Cuba.

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2061. Motttt
they was cutting a clamp that they tryed to take off by hand earlyer but couldent then they droped the saw
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2060. Levi32
Quoting LavosPhoenix:
Yeah, do any of the models at all incorporate the topology of the land into their calculations for tropical weather/storms/etc? Or do they just assume it's "land" at sea level, that is, either just "land" or "anti-water" or a const value? I'm assuming it's just a const value with zero or near zero elevation for most of the models. If this is so, of course it would explain why these models think there's going to be redevelopment in the gulf considering the likely outcome that the storm will be torn to shreads by the mountains of Central America.


The models do have topography in them. A layout of the land is absolutely essential for a model forecast anywhere in the world to be even remotely correct. If the model couldn't sense mountain ranges, it would be a complete mess.
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2059. scott39
Is the Top Kill a temp solution or a more permanant one?
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6912
I've got to go, see ya later.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2057. JamesSA
Quoting Patrap:
Looks Like they cut one of the Top Kill fill Lines,maybe the choke inlet side

I see now that they are working at the top of the BOP. Interesting.
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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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