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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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.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting EricSFL:


... or the Bahamas.


YOU!
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4404. Grothar
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.


Welcome back stranger.
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Climatology shows us that the west coast of FL is most at risk in early and late season when troughs are still digging into the S. Half of the U.S., causing these storms to re-curve, but the fact is anyone can be hit at any time, and it only takes one.
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You have mail MH
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4397. EricSFL
Quoting TropicalWave:
I know, but still.......(: also, didn't he higlight any of the leeward or windward islands?


... or the Bahamas.
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I don't know if you all seen my post today early but, i was just looking at the LIVE FEED of the Oil gusher......How much did BP claim to be collecting.....i seen 30%. I find that hard to believe.
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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.
Where r u in SWF?
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Thanks for that. I was unaware that the models lose resolution after a period of time, despite that they forecast out beyond one week doesn't mean the result has the same accuracy of the near-term


Take a look the precipitation shadings on the GFS 48 hrs as compared to 348 hrs..you can see the lost in resolution. This occurs after 168 hrs, which I have developed over the years to be the threshold of reliability.





Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Damn…Just happened again. I think I’ll wait till the storm passes to reset my clocks again.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Heh, someone (I think it was MiamiHurricanes) pointed that out, but it was found that this is actually is 1501st blog, because there is a blog 0.
Yup, lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
4388. EricSFL
Quoting trey33:
More than just his eyeballs!!!


lol
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Why is there so much more risk for June/July than August/September. Are you forecasting more waves to recurve when it gets to that time?
Those graphs generally don't make sense to me.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:
I made these images eariler. October - November will be out later tonight:








I don't agree at all with your maps for Aug-Sept......to have PR and DR along with SE Florida in the Yellow is very very Odd to me. Just my Opinion.....otherwise nice maps.
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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.
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Quoting Weather456:
This blog entry is Dr. Masters 1500th blog post.


Heh, someone (I think it was MiamiHurricanes) pointed that out, but it was found that this is actually is 1501st blog, because there is a blog 0.
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4381. trey33
Quoting CycloneOz:


Charlie Crist is involved up to his eyeballs in a financial scandal. LOL!
More than just his eyeballs!!!
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Quoting Weather456:


It is the potential vorticity at a given level in the atmosphere. The temperature readings (K for Kelvin) is the potential temperature. Potential temperature is the temperature an air parcel would acquire if it was adiabatically brought to 1000 mb from its pressure level. Thus potential temperature would be higher in a air parcel at 200 mb than at 800 mb since the distance is greater in the former (200mb-1000mb) than the latter (800 mb-1000mb).

Potential temperatures around 315K is the level of the AEJ and thus this is the accepted level to track AEWs. Below that 310K would tack lower level tropical waves, the second type of tropical waves. Above that is 320K or the mid-levels.

Air parcels tend to travel along the potential temperature lines, and because they are arranged zonally from east to west, tropical waves will be advected east to west.


Thank you!
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:
I made these images eariler. October - November will be out later tonight:







Why is there so much more risk for June/July than August/September. Are you forecasting more waves to recurve when it gets to that time?
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This blog entry is Dr. Masters 1500th blog post.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
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
4372. xcool
apply directly to forehead.
lmao
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting Funkadelic:


You are really teaching me a ton I appreciate it.. But why aren't the models showing development of any of these African waves despite the almost perfect conditions out there?


I wouldn't describe the Atlantic as near-perfect. There is sal and dry air out there and lingering vertical shear. My thinking is if anyone of these waves were to develop in the Caribbean later this month we would not necessarily know since only the GFS and ECMWF go out past 1 week and even these long-range models lose resolution beyond then. As time goes on, the models begin to pick up, if any, the waves that will develop. The nearest wave is 5 days away of the Caribbean and the models hint it will keep its vorticity as it heads west. Its another 7-8 days from the WCARIB, too far for most models and too unreliable for the long-range ones.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
4369. EricSFL
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Quoting xcool:
i need Head On stuff
LMAO!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
4365. xcool
i need Head On stuffapply directly to forehead.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting weather42009:
Thanks for the answer W456. When I go the site I noticed they have 310K, 315K and 320K PVs. What does these stand for and I notice you only use the 315K PVs?


It is the potential vorticity at a given level in the atmosphere. The temperature readings (K for Kelvin) is the potential temperature. Potential temperature is the temperature an air parcel would acquire if it was adiabatically brought to 1000 mb from its pressure level. Thus potential temperature would be higher in a air parcel at 200 mb than at 800 mb since the distance is greater in the former (200mb-1000mb) than the latter (800 mb-1000mb).

Potential temperatures around 315K is the level of the AEJ and thus this is the accepted level to track AEWs. Below that 310K would tack lower level tropical waves, the second type of tropical waves. Above that is 320K or the mid-levels.

Air parcels tend to travel along the potential temperature lines, and because they are arranged zonally from east to west, tropical waves will be advected east to west.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Usually just a lurker but.....I cannot help but think how this storm season will end up with the oil spill in the gulf and the current state of Haiti. Let alone, the above average season that is projected.
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Quoting Patrap:
..Its gonna be a Long,Long Summa..Ike
Yeah, I'm just going to lurk.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting trey33:
CharLIE Crist hasn't done much except fly around with Jimmy Buffet on a photo tour....but then why would he? He's not one to actually DO something.


Charlie Crist is involved up to his eyeballs in a financial scandal. LOL!
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What this blog needs is a decent sized hurricane to track. LOL...

I think I need something like this, too.
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Just lost power for a few minutes. Quite a storm over us.
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4356. trey33
CharLIE Crist hasn't done much except fly around with Jimmy Buffet on a photo tour....but then why would he? He's not one to actually DO something.
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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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