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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Quoting KoritheMan:


Yeah. Case in point is 2004's Charley.
Yeah charley had me scared we werent prepared (not my fault ) and right when we finished putting the last board on the house the storm turned and we know what happened i live in odessa just north of tampa so that was a crazy season 2004
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1356. pottery
Quoting Hurricanes101:


No he is right, just did it on the conversion chart

0.2C = 32.36F

Water freezes at 32f=0c
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1355. EricSFL
Hello "oil slick man".
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Quoting Patrap:
Come Tuesday June 1, the Rules of z Road will be STRICTLY enforced with 24-96 Hour Bans being the Law of the Blog.

Esp with Dr. Jeff Masters new Radio Show premiering.

Were going to have a lot of new posters so Im posting this to remind us all.


Admin Notice:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.

Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering.

Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.



What about Shaun's show , The Daily Downpour, that's normally on Tu??
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
1351. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Patrap:


The chat feature in the New Show will allow for a good flow of info and talk as well.

The call in feature should be interesting as well.

iam expecting docs show to take off in a big way

iam also going to do a little write up and promo and link for the doc as well on my blog
not that he needs it but its the least i can do after what the doc has done for us
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Way way off. It's about 0.5%u02DAF


No he is right, just did it on the conversion chart

0.2C = 32.36F

oh wait nevermind lol
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7376
Good night. God bless!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


32.6 °F
Way way off. It's about 0.5˚F
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1345. DDR
Interesting question here
Which island in the caribbean recieves the highest anual rainfall?
I have a feeling its either dominica or guadaluope.
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1344. Patrap
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
don't tell them pat i was hoping to watch them disappear one at a time come tuseday


The chat feature in the New Show will allow for a good flow of info and talk as well.

The call in feature should be interesting as well.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


32.6 °F


That seems like a pretty significant cool down to me. o_O
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1342. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Patrap:
Come Tuesday June 1, the Rules of z Road will be STRICTLY enforced with 24-96 Hour Bans being the Law of the Blog.

Esp with Dr. Jeff Masters new Radio Show premiering.

Were going to have a lot of new posters so Im posting this to remind us all.


Admin Notice:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.

Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering.

Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.


don't tell them pat i was hoping to watch them disappear one at a time come tuseday
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting Patrap:


Use the ignore feature ans DONT engage trolls.
You know it.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
so no more talking about yummy food?
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1338. Patrap
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I just hope we get smart posters and not trolls.


Use the ignore feature and DONT engage trolls.

And never quote idiocy or trollish behavior as well
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
But troughs can also be bad as well it could track hurricanes to the us from the caribbean especially june,october and november.


Yeah. Case in point is 2004's Charley.
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1336. DDR
Quoting pottery:

Been there for 2 weeks. Now that Jack is in charge, and not Colm, we may get some action!

Good point,alot of change in the air...
456--understood.
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Quoting Patrap:
Come Tuesday June 1, the Rules of z Road will be STRICTLY enforced with 24-96 Hour Bans being the Law of the Blog.

Esp with Dr. Jeff Masters new Radio Show premiering.

Were going to have a lot of new posters so Im posting this to remind us all.


Admin Notice:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.

Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering.

Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.


Alright thanks for the heads up!
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Some heavy rains in that area too.




The combinations of volcanoes may slow warming by as much as 0.2C. That's it.


How much is that in Fahrenheit?
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Quoting Patrap:
Come Tuesday June 1, the Rules of z Road will be STRICTLY enforced with 24-96 Hour Bans being the Law of the Blog.

Esp with Dr. Jeff Masters new Radio Show premiering.

Were going to have a lot of new posters so Im posting this to remind us all.


Admin Notice:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.

Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering.

Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.


I just hope we get smart posters and not trolls.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1332. Skyepony (Mod)
I can't help swirl watching.. Fresh ASCAT of 91L. Still has a single plume being blown from the center. Floater 1 is still on it.
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Hey Everyone:

Our final numbers are in on our full-scale portable power test for the live severe weather webcam!

12 hours broadcast time on main batt
Main Batt Power Used: 16 AH (out of 18 AH)
Cell phone bluetooth: Still operating after 12 hours.
Bluetooth Audio for Webcam: Still operating after 12 hours (and that is simply stupifying!)

What all this boils down to is that my system design for a portable webcam with wireless 3G broadband will operate solidly for a 12-plus hour period.
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1330. Patrap
Come Tuesday June 1, the Rules of z Road will be STRICTLY enforced with 24-96 Hour Bans being the Law of the Blog.

Esp with Dr. Jeff Masters new Radio Show premiering.

Were going to have a lot of new posters so Im posting this to remind us all.


Admin Notice:

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.

Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering.

Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting DDR:
Hey weather456
Nice pics and btw how much rain did you get?


About an inch, our records are not complete for example, the station stop reporting at 9PM local time here. It is still raining on and off.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Chances are that the most vulnerable areas: Haiti, New Orleans, New York...are all at increased risk this season. Just don't overdo it on the wishcasting and we'll be fine.
New York? We are talking about a westward placed Bermuda high, negative NAO, and La Niña here. If a system affects New York I will shave all my hair.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1325. Patrap
90E 2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

0215 UTC



2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

The same infrared imagery shown in the earth relative framework is displayed in a storm relative framework, with a 2km resolution and enhanced with the "BD Curve" which is useful for directly inferring intensity via the Dvorak Enhanced IR (EIR) technique. Scaling is provided by two lightly hatched circles around the center. The two circles have radii of 1 and 2 degrees latitude, respectively.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention that troughs can occasionally cut off mid- to upper-level lows, which can produce strong vertical shear over a tropical cyclone, weakening it.
But troughs can also be bad as well it could track hurricanes to the us from the caribbean especially june,october and november.
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1323. pottery
Quoting DDR:
Pottery ive noticed you have a new lake in freeport,just by the flyover,better watch out for them mosquitos.lol

Been there for 2 weeks. Now that Jack is in charge, and not Colm, we may get some action!
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Quoting FIU2010:


I do not know what's so ''sarcastic'' about a plausible forecast, brickell, :(,
First of all you don't call me Brickell unless you want to be called Hialeah. Second off all, there is no way that a system will go over central America and the Yucatan without dissipating even if it's a CAT 5. Third of all, no system can develop/intensify in the middle of the subtropical jet stream. Regardless of what models are saying you're not using your common sense.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1321. Patrap
90E Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)

0215 UTC



Current imagery and loops of 4km remapped and color enhanced infrared (IR) imagery is displayed in an earth fixed coordinate system. IR imagery (~11 um) from five geostationary satellites are remapped to a common 4km resolution Mercator projection in an identical manner as the CIRA Tropical Cyclone Image Archive described in (Mueller et al. (2006) . These images are then centered and displayed using the nearest 5 degree latitude/longitude earth coordinate based on the most recent location and past 12-h movement. The images are also color enhanced with the coldest temperatures/highest clouds displayed as colored shades as shown in this color bar.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
1320. DDR
Hey weather456
Nice pics and btw how much rain did you get?
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Quoting hydrus:
Arenal was also erupting is Costa Rica last I heard.


Some heavy rains in that area too.


Quoting KoritheMan:
Does anyone know if the eruption of the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala will cause global cooling? I actually hadn't heard of the eruption until just now, when I visited the blog, so I'm unsure of the details.


The combinations of volcanoes may slow warming by as much as 0.2C. That's it.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Ridges usually force a storm westward, while troughs usually mean they cut northward into the Bermuda high and out to sea.


Not to mention that troughs can occasionally cut off mid- to upper-level lows, which can produce strong vertical shear over a tropical cyclone, weakening it.
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found this on AC360 blog:

Justin May 28th, 2010 10:18 pm ET
I am a commercial fisherman here in Mississippi. We have filled out multiple applications for the vessel of opportunity program and still we keep seeing these recreaitional boats local and from out of town being put to work while we sit at home with no money. Sure Bp has given 5000 to captians and 2500 to deck hands but with Lousiana shrimping waters closed were we work how are we supposed to feed our familys. Bp only gives us the run around and still after being at every meeting we haven't been hired. Can anybody please help us out here. We have had tar balls wash upon our coast lines here in Mississippi and BP continues to tell us they arent from the oil spill. I have walked these beaches for years and have never came across them before. Other fisherman have went out in Mississippi waters and you can see some oil slick and Bp gets to rule it as alge? Why won't Bp fess up and own up to this. And even more, our govenor Haley Barbour keeps saying were arent even being affected here. What the hell is going on here. Im sure he isn't being affected. Our president, our govenor and our politicians are lying to us to our face. And why has Bp stopped giving us fisherman checks. I thought Obama was going to make sure Bp is paying us. This all is a big sham. Our boat is prepping right now to go take pictures of this oil and we are going to take samples... Since our government and BP wants to cover this up we are taking it into our own hands.
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1315. Patrap
90E showing a Decent Dvorak this hour



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting pottery:

In 1999 I measured 93.5", and in 2001 it was 50.5"
But 2001 was a complete anomaly. The 15 yr average (including 2001) is 77.5"

We live in the equivalent of the central African Savannah's.

You are in the wonderful tropics, with the classic distinct wet/dry seasons.

We normally receive 27" in a dry year, 45" in a wet year, with almost every June 15-Sept 5 being as dry as a desert, if we're lucky it rains 2x a month.

All the natural grasses turn brown and go dormant from late Jul to mid Sept, when the rains return.

One year we had 18" of rain, the leaves fell off many of the trees in August that year, and we reached 111F (1998).
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
1313. pottery
Quoting kimoskee:
Update: NWA reports flooding in parts of the island
2010-05-28 17:16:35 | (1 Comments)


The National Works Agency (NWA) in Jamaica is reporting flooding in the Corporate Area and five other parishes due to the heavy rainfall across the island.

As a result, the NWA says several roads in St Catherine, Clarendon St Elizabeth St Thomas and St James are either impassable or open to small vehicles only.

Stephen Shaw, communications manager at the NWA gave a list of some of the affected roads

Welcome to de rainy season up dere.
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1312. Patrap
They have 8-11 ROV's in the water at a time,some are Digital ones,,with arms to manipulate,and some are video feed only.All require maintenance after a Long mission.
So the views change as to what they feed the Network unless you have the Big View of the ROV windows at the Oceannearing Command Center.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting FloridaTigers:
Is 90E supposed to move ENE or NE?


yea
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Quoting FIU2010:


I do not know what's so ''sarcastic'' about a plausible forecast, brickell, :(,
Its going to be a slim to none chance though because first 90E has to traverse 8000-13000 foot mountains in guatamala that would tear up any low pressure area or storm then it will only have a very short time to organize because if it goes in the gulf high shear will kill it if the mountainous terrain didnt earlier at most you guys may get heavy rain but thats it nothing tropical in the gulf for awhile in my opinion.
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


So..What your basically saying is that I cant state my opinion, right? Look, I cant help that there is a crisis in the Gulf, and I understand that we dont need any more problems there, but do you really think i control the weather? I mean, I can snap my fingers, but I doubt that will do anything...


Chances are that the most vulnerable areas: Haiti, New Orleans, New York...are all at increased risk this season. Just don't overdo it on the wishcasting and we'll be fine.
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1308. DDR
Pottery ive noticed you have a new lake in freeport,just by the flyover,better watch out for them mosquitos.lol
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Lots of rain over Venezuela...and a trough/front over Costa Rica?
I believe you are talking about the monsoonal trough.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091

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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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