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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1507. xcool
TampaSpin hey friend...
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
The 00Z GFS is reasonable showing a weak, sheared disturbance moving towards the NE GOM, bringing rains to parts of FL and the SE before merging with a frontal system.
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Quoting SouthALWX:

no, the well is blown already, that's the problem. zing!


Zing is correct........ROFLMAO....i can't top that....lol
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1503. xcool



Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
1502. xcool



newwwwww so gfs and ngp put in gom...
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting Skyepony:


That's the one from earlier..the 1st one that says 45mins ago is most recent..though a partial, shows where the lacking south side is making progress closing.

456~ After they didn't call it I had to go back & look. The other night 90L looked closed on the colorful product version of Windsat (which is great for wind speeds), 3 hours later looking at this red version of ASCAT it was hard to believe it was slaughtered so hard so fast..compared a few &
said hhmm.


Frankly, I hate ASCAT. I would exhaust all other possible means before going to ASCAT. Not telling anyone ASCAT isn't good when its ready...but I am not feeling it, if u kno what i mean.
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Quoting Weather456:


That's too strong for 90E and what I see in the ASCAT pass.


ok then based on that pass it was not well-defined as the NHC said in their outlook. I guess that would have been a better word to use

The last ASCAT pass shows it is better defined than it was earlier today
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1499. Grothar
Quoting Bordonaro:

Ha, ha, ha :o). They swim upside down in the N Hemisphere also.

Except many of the Gulf Shrimp are not only high in cholesterol, they're also high in hydrocarbons. Try cooking those babies on a hot fire or on a BBQ and you'll have 'um smoking like a Gulf of Mexico controlled burn!!


LOL I'll try it on Monday.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


what limited them from classifying this system is a poorly organized center, ASCAT caught it pretty well I think


That's too strong for 90E and what I see in the ASCAT pass.
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I have a new Chat Messenger at my site that i hope you all enjoy when you visit my blog updates.

GFS MODEL SHOWS A STORM IN THE GOM FIRST WEEK IN JUNE
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1495. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Hurricanes101:


Is this the one from 45 minutes ago or from earlier today?


That's the one from earlier..the 1st one that says 45mins ago is most recent..though a partial, shows where the lacking south side is making progress closing.

456~ After they didn't call it I had to go back & look. The other night 90L looked closed on the colorful product version of Windsat (which is great for wind speeds), 3 hours later looking at this red version of ASCAT it was hard to believe it was slaughtered so hard so fast..compared a few & said hhmm.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36074
1494. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52240
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i think maybe the lack of a quickscat is going to prove to be a bigger problem than expected with systems 90l was the first now 90e something got to be limiting them from the call and that maybe it and could be for the season ahead


That presents a problem but they have to be resourceful. I managed to complete center fixes on 90L and 90E and estimated intensity within reasonable range using the multitude of other data available.

If that is the case, then we may not see the 18+ storms this year as we get back to the pre-1999 era.
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anti-cyclones and ULLs are even harder to predict than the tropical systems they effect
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1491. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting EricSFL:


Wouldn't the upper anticyclone move along with 90E and reduce shear around the system?
Whoops didnt see that but first it has to cross the mountainous terrain some mountains are 13000 feet high. that can tear any low pressure system apart and who knows if the anticyclone will follow it all the way to the gulf.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i think maybe the lack of a quickscat is going to prove to be a bigger problem than expected with systems 90l was the first now 90e something got to be limiting them from the call and that maybe it and could be for the season ahead


what limited them from classifying this system is a poorly organized center, ASCAT caught it pretty well I think
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Bye the way, If you all wanna hear some great music Go to the record stores tomorrow or download the new Godsmack CD-The Oracle. One of the best CD's that's come out in over a decade. Excellent CD to listen to before or during a workout!
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 411
1487. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Weather456:


I never said they weren't. I was only surprise that it did not became a TD earlier.
i think maybe the lack of a quickscat is going to prove to be a bigger problem than expected with systems 90l was the first now 90e something got to be limiting them from the call and that maybe it and could be for the season ahead
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52240
Quoting TampaSpin:
A little humor political Joke but, we could send Bill Clinton......ROFLMAO...gotta admit this was funny.....LOL

no, the well is blown already, that's the problem. zing!
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Quoting Skyepony:
Weather456~ I thought the same, that 90E would be called a depression by the pass posted earlier today till I viewed it in a different form.. I've noticed the pretty color version is a wider view that seems to miss some details..here's the other of what had looked like a nice tight closed low.


Thanks for posting that.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Weather456~ I thought the same, that 90E would be called a depression by the pass posted earlier today till I viewed it in a different form.. I've noticed the pretty color version is a wider view that seems to miss some details..here's the other of what had looked like a nice tight closed low.


Is this the one from 45 minutes ago or from earlier today?
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1483. Skyepony (Mod)
Weather456~ I thought the same, that 90E would be called a depression by the pass posted earlier today till I viewed it in a different form.. I've noticed the pretty color version is a wider view that seems to miss some details..here's the other of what had looked like a nice tight closed low.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36074
1482. EricSFL
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Yep i can see remnant moisture streaming into south florida but no tropical system shear is too strong.


Wouldn't the upper anticyclone move along with 90E and reduce shear around the system?
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Im out of here. Ive gotta Sussener and I wont be back til Tuesday. You all have a good and safe Memorial Day Weekend.
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 411
Quoting Hurricanes101:
kuppensup, just keep an eye on it is all

I doubt it would be anything more than just a rain event
Yep i can see remnant moisture streaming into south florida but no tropical system shear is too strong.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
kuppensup, just keep an eye on it is all

I doubt it would be anything more than just a rain event


Thank you
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 411
Quoting TampaSpin:


Dude i am gonna be lost without my show "24" not on for a while......whata we gonna do on Mondays now?

Watch Castle!!! Kinda reminds me of Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard. Hmmmmm.... I'm showing my age.... groan!
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Quoting kuppenskup:


So basicly your telling me dont even waste time with this system and come back when there is relly something out there right?


That's not right. The possibilities of a significant system from 90E affecting the Gulf regions are slim at the moment.
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Quoting Patrap:


A Mark 80 Nuclear tipped Low yield 10 Kiloton torpedo fired from a Los Angeles Class Sub should seal dat sucka.

Or maybe open up the whole reservoir.


Where is Jack Bauer?



Someone need a well plugged? I have a fresh stock of Hershey Bars.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


They do swim upside down though. Hey Bord!!

Ha, ha, ha :o). They swim upside down in the N Hemisphere also.

Except many of the Gulf Shrimp are not only high in cholesterol, they're also high in hydrocarbons. Try cooking those babies on a hot fire or on a BBQ and you'll have 'um smoking like a Gulf of Mexico controlled burn!!
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1474. Skyepony (Mod)
Fresh ASCAT 12.5km 45 minutes ago

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36074
1473. xcool
STORMS IN GOM OOK NOW
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
I wouldnt normally do this on this Blog but since were in a quiet time I wanna give a shout out to Gary Coleman. Our thoughts and prayers are with him & his family. Im sure you guys are with me on this.
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 411
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
affected ares have been warned of heavy rain mudslides and strong winds with this feature the Hurricane centre is doing its job and to be honest i think they do a great job along with others in co-operation with them


I never said they weren't. I was only surprise that it did not became a TD earlier.
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kuppensup, just keep an eye on it is all

I doubt it would be anything more than just a rain event
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1468. Grothar
Quoting Bordonaro:

2.2 lbs=

25 lbs of shrimp=11.4 KG and shrimp do not curl the opposite direction in the S Hemisphere :O)!!


They do swim upside down though. Hey Bord!!
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1467. Skyepony (Mod)
Windsat just totally missed 90E.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36074
1466. Patrap
I think we should send out a Planetary SOS.

Maybe the Sirian's will get it and come Zap it with one of them Alien Zappers they use on Abductee's.

Then they could take BP back with them.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125556
1465. EricSFL
The outflow over 90E is not as well defined as earlier today.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Weather456:


The most I see is the remnants of the system moving in that direction. The 12Z models have indicated so with consensus. Two factors we have to consider are land interaction over CA and if it survives that, vertical shear from subtropical jet stream.


So basicly your telling me dont even waste time with this system and come back when there is really something out there right?
Member Since: August 26, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 411
1463. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Weather456:


I doubt either reasons. For one, closeness to land should have the opposite effect, in that, warning affected areas and two, there has been evidence of closed low with 90E since noon's ASCAT.
affected ares have been warned of heavy rain mudslides and strong winds with this feature the Hurricane centre is doing its job and to be honest i think they do a great job along with others in co-operation with them
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52240
Quoting TexasGulf:


Don't know. Here is another good question though... Do shrimp curl the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere?


25 lbs of shrimp=11.4 KG and shrimp do not curl the opposite direction in the S Hemisphere :O)!!
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A little humor political Joke but, we could send Bill Clinton......ROFLMAO...gotta admit this was funny.....LOL
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Quoting futuremet:
00z GFS 90hrs - A possible developing tropical cyclone. It is good to see you to Tim.



interesting
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Knock Him Dowm Man Don't Commit Murder
K H D M D C M

Kilo Heca Deca Metre Deci Centi Milli

That's how I remember. High school was a long time ago!
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Quoting Patrap:


A Mark 80 Nuclear tipped Low yield 10 Kiloton torpedo fired from a Los Angeles Class Sub should seal dat sucka.

Or maybe open up the whole reservoir.


Where is Jack Bauer?



Dude i am gonna be lost without my show "24" not on for a while......whata we gonna do on Mondays now?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


A Mark 80 Nuclear tipped Low yield 10 Kiloton torpedo fired from a Los Angeles Class Sub should seal dat sucka.

Or maybe open up the whole reservoir.


Where is Jack Bauer?


He tried the first day. It didnt work. No one will pay him for longer than 24 hours. At this point, the only way to seal it is to send Chuck Norris down there. "Help us, Chuck Norris, you're our only hope!"
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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