Long range oil spill forecast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:02 PM GMT on June 04, 2010

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Onshore winds out of the south, southwest, or west are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico over through Tuesday, resulting in a continued threat of landfalling oil to Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. The latest ocean current forecasts from the NOAA HYCOM model show that these winds will generate a 0.5 mph current flowing from west to east along the Florida Panhandle coast Sunday through Tuesday. If this current develops as predicted, it will be capable of bringing light amounts of oil as far east as Panama City, Florida, by Wednesday. Long range surface wind forecasts from the GFS model for the period 8 - 14 days from now predict a return to a southeasterly wind regime, which would bring the oil back over Louisiana by mid-June. If you spot oil, send in your report to http://www.gulfcoastspill.com/, whose mission is to help the Gulf Coast recovery by creating a daily record of the oil spill.

Long range oil spill outlook
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) issued a press release yesterday showing 4-month model runs (Figure 1) of where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill might go. The model runs show that given typical ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico, we can expect the oil to eventually affect most of the Florida Panhandle, Keys, and Florida East Coast, as well as coastal areas of South Carolina and North Carolina. Very little oil makes it to the West Florida "Forbidden Zone", where offshore-moving surface currents dominate. The oil may eventually affect three foreign countries: Mexico along the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba near Havana, and the Bahamas in the Bimini Islands and along the western side of Grand Bahama Island. Once oil does get into the Loop Current, it will probably reach the coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal in about a year. The oil will be too dilute by then to be noticeable, though.

The present ocean current configuration in the Gulf features a newly formed Loop Current Eddy (dubbed "Franklin"), which will tend to capture the majority of oil that flows southwards from the Deepwater Horizon spill site. A plot of drifting buoys (drifters) launched into the Gulf May 19 - 24 (Figure 2) reveals how this clockwise-rotating eddy has been capturing southward-moving surface water. Eddy Franklin will move slowly west-southwest at 2 - 3 mph in the coming weeks. By August or September, the eddy will have moved far enough west that the Loop Current will be able to push northwards towards the spill location again, increasing the chances of oil getting into the Loop Current and being advected through the Florida Straits and up the U.S. Southeast Coast. Between now and mid-August, I doubt that a significant amount of oil will get into the Loop Current, unless a hurricane or tropical storm goes through the Gulf of Mexico. I put the odds of this happening by mid-August at 50%. The odds of a named storm in the Gulf of Mexico will increase sharply after mid-August, when the peak portion of hurricane season arrives. Past history shows a 95% chance of getting two or more named storms in the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane seasons with above-normal activity.


Figure 1. Animation from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) showing one scenario of how oil released at the location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico may move in the upper 65 feet of the ocean.


Figure 2. During the R/V Bellows 19-24 May 2010 Cruise into the Loop Current, drifters were dropped on the eastern edge of the Loop Current. These drifters have all been caught in Loop Current Eddy "Franklin", and are orbiting the central Gulf of Mexico in clockwise loops. Additional drifters deployed by the Coast Guard over the past few weeks (orange colors) are also shown. The colored balloons show the starting location of the drifters. Image credit: University of South Florida.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil 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
Oil trajectory forecasts from NOAA
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Phet on Friday, June 4, 2010.

Tropical Cyclone Phet unleashes heavy rains on Oman
Tropical Cyclone Phet hit the northern tip of Oman yesterday as a Category 2 storm, bringing torrential rains and killing at least two people. Masirah, Oman recorded sustained winds of 74 mph yesterday, and Sur, Oman on the northeast coast has received 3.25 inches of rain so far. Phet was the 2nd strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Arabian Sea, when it peaked at Category 4 strength with 145 mph. Only Category 5 Cyclone Gonu of 2007, which devastated Oman, was stronger. Phet has emerged from the coast of Oman this morning, but is likely to weaken over the next day due to increased wind shear. Phet should hit Pakistan as a tropical storm on Saturday, bringing heavy rain and serious flooding.

Next update
I'll probably have one update over the weekend. The tropical Atlantic is quiet right now, with no models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next seven days.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Sorr MH09.
No problem.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Hurry up and get off shore! Madison is draped around my neck like a mink stole!

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@masonsnana and charlottefl are you both in Port Charlotte?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
do you have some type of medical condition i should be aware of
Dr. Keeper to the rescue
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


No, I dont think so.
Please don't quote trolls.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
4447. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
I have butterflies in my stomach.Owww.I don't feel like having hurricane nightmares like in 2008.I want to see pretty fisher this year(out to sea storms)
do you have some type of medical condition i should be aware of
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4446. Grothar
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Nice to see you back and I appreciate the job you do! Has FPL made any improvements to restore power faster since Hurricane Frances and Jeanne?


Hey Geoff, how bad were the storms by you. The lightning was awful. Lot of lights out here.
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Post 4441 me too LOL
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Quoting charlottefl:
I mean we're constantly upgrading out system, hardware and software, and we do dry runs every year for a storm event. FPL is probably #1 when it comes to power restoration after a storm.


Darn, I'm with LCEC figures!
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Quoting charlottefl:
I meant 16 hour days cause I work for FPL. In the event of a storm, we go into storm mode, and it's all hands on deck. We can't leave town we have to evacuate locally.

I understand that too. I work for Mobile and thats what we do as well.... When the storm gets into the Gulf we go into "Storm Mode" here. Then its get ready for the worse and hope for the best....

Taco :o)
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I know this is long range but, it is ugly. I don't put a lot of stock into models this far out until 7 days out with 3-4 showing the same.
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4437. hcubed
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Question.Whats the longest someone has been on this blog.


Even better question: What's the longest someone has posted on the blog AND KEPT THE SAME NAME?

I really should go through my iggy list. I imagine I could clear out half of it by getting rid of the old "he who should not be named" handles.
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Quoting extreme236:


Scary thought for what we could see come August and September. I'm definitely leaning toward the upper end of the forecast NOAA provided.
As am I.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
I mean we're constantly upgrading out system, hardware and software, and we do dry runs every year for a storm event. FPL is probably #1 when it comes to power restoration after a storm.


Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Nice to see you back and I appreciate the job you do! Has FPL made any improvements to restore power faster since Hurricane Frances and Jeanne?
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so what's going on with the flare up in new mexico?
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Quoting TampaSpin:
In every part of the Atlantic Basin Shear is running well below Climatolgy Average.....in every single part of the Alantic...GOM, Carr, Bah., Atl, Mid Atl...all


Scary thought for what we could see come August and September. I'm definitely leaning toward the upper end of the forecast NOAA provided.
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Quoting charlottefl:
I meant 16 hour days cause I work for FPL. In the event of a storm, we go into storm mode, and it's all hands on deck. We can't leave town we have to evacuate locally.



Nice to see you back and I appreciate the job you do! Has FPL made any improvements to restore power faster since Hurricane Frances and Jeanne?
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Quoting extreme236:


Lets remember this is a weather blog, not facebook...
Actually, the currect blog topic is long range oil spill forecast...
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You're telling me! I was in a local hospital in the N eye wall of Charley. It destroyed the hospital.

Quoting masonsnana:
You guys do a wonderful job in a storm, but I can't think about after Charlie
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4427. EricSFL
Quoting dsenecal2009:


YOU!


ME! me what?
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4426. xcool
:0
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
In every part of the Atlantic Basin Shear is running well below Climatolgy Average.....in every single part of the Alantic...GOM, Carr, Bah., Atl, Mid Atl...all
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Quoting extreme236:


Lets remember this is a weather blog, not facebook...
Lol!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
4421. MrsOsa
Quoting charlottefl:
Evening everyone. Looks like it's gonna be a pretty busy season. Hope everyone has their storm plans in place. I gotta look at mine seeing how I'm gonna be working 16 hour shifts if one does hit. This year has a lot of weather pattern similarities to 2004, should be interesting to see what happens.


Police, Firefighter, or Medical?

Aside from the media, we're usually the only ones having to work more hours than usual. I worry about my pets. They are my main concern as far as hurricane plans go as both me and the hubby will not be allowed to evacuate.
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Quoting charlottefl:
I meant 16 hour days cause I work for FPL. In the event of a storm, we go into storm mode, and it's all hands on deck. We can't leave town we have to evacuate locally.

You guys do a wonderful job in a storm, but I can't think about after Charlie
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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Mmmm okay..um..miamihurricanes are you mad at me??.


Lets remember this is a weather blog, not facebook...
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Vertical shear over the GOM is really low, anyone else seeing this?

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Thanks, have had a lot going on I haven't really had access to the internet, except on my phone in a while. Been reading up on there though.

Quoting Grothar:


Welcome back stranger.
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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Is that a storm in the gulf.How??


Read post 4406
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:
I made these images eariler. October - November will be out later tonight:





Don't want to sound like a wishcaster but to have Florida's eastern coast a general risk doesn't make sense. That area I think should be red or pink based on the location of the A\B High.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting DestinJeff:


reliable or not, what in the world is that thing in my neck of the woods at 168?


Jeff go to my blog!
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I meant 16 hour days cause I work for FPL. In the event of a storm, we go into storm mode, and it's all hands on deck. We can't leave town we have to evacuate locally.

Quoting spathy:
Charlotte
I am holding off on taking any vacation so I will have income if the worst comes my way.
I hope three weeks will suffice.
Thats part of my Hurricane prep.
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Quoting masonsnana:
Where r u in SWF?
NW Cape Coral here.
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Quoting DestinJeff:


reliable or not, what in the world is that thing in my neck of the woods at 168?


you mean 348 hrs...read post 4406
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4407. Dakster
Quoting DestinJeff:
hey, everybody, no matter what color paints your coast you remain in a hurricane prone area. you could every graphic-making blogger on here paint you red, that isn't going to make any difference other than pyschologically.


Yep... All it takes is one..
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10546
If you believe the 18Z GFS the wave near 35W develops in the NW Caribbean and enter the GOM by June 21. Very long shot but worth mentioning.
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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.