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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3906. JLPR2
Quoting biloxidaisy:
What is the trick to posting a pic? I put a link in for the image, but all I get on preview is a red X..


It has to be a direct link to the picture, like Http://...
and it has to be in the internet, no links from pictures on the computer, besides that I dont see any other inconveniences
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3904. xcool
JLPR2 HEY.YEAH 30W SPIN
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
3901. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Uh-oh, shear in the Gulf, Caribbean and Central Atlantic is all but disappearing...
a great window is about to open
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What is the trick to posting a pic? I put a link in for the image, but all I get on preview is a red X..
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3897. JLPR2
Quoting WatchingThisOne:
The good news:

BP is capturing "the majority, probably the vast majority of the oil."

In excess of 10,000 bbl/day, supposedly.

The bad news:

This looks more like an Atlas rocket on lift-off

How to tell if a BP official or government representative is telling a lie? Their mouth is moving.

Disgusting. Now watch a big storm blow up in the Gulf and turn catastrophe into the unimaginable.

WTO


Yes a Hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico heading towards the oil and a hurricane passing over Haiti would be simply terrible. I do hope hurricane stir clear of those areas.
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3896. EricSFL
hi all.
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850mb Vorticity and Lower level Winds show a broad area of low pressure that will bring heavy rains to New Orleans, Bioxi, and Mobile, and the Florida Panhandle....Don't think it will become tropical though
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yes, it's easing a bit but shouldn't really go away for a while, I would say another 10 days.

GFS 72 hour shear forecast:


Uh-oh, shear in the Gulf, Caribbean and Central Atlantic is all but disappearing...
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3892. JLPR2
Quoting xcool:



Lots of moisture.MMMM


That's a nice spin with the TW at 30something
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The good news:

BP is capturing "the majority, probably the vast majority of the oil."

In excess of 10,000 bbl/day, supposedly.

The bad news:

This looks more like an Atlas rocket on lift-off

How to tell if a BP official or government representative is telling a lie? Their mouth is moving.

Disgusting. Now watch a big storm blow up in the Gulf and turn catastrophe into the unimaginable.

WTO
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3889. JLPR2
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
If people become to suspicious they will go mad in the end.


Yeah, they analyze too much :)
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3887. xcool



Lots of moisture.MMMM
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
3886. xcool
Baltimorebirds YOU CAN CALLME SCOTT.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Im thinking by end of this month or first week of July that the MJO maybe in upward pulse for us,,and shear should be relaxed more by then we'll prob see a big pop in action
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Forecast steering for 850mb...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
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Quoting beell:


Tropical wave near 37N amplifying some since this morning. Scooting right along also. May be better than the 10 knots posted in the afternoon TWD.

Also a nice set of pinwheels SW of the Canary Islands (towards the upper right of the pic)
Von Karmen Vorticies
Eastrern Tropical Atlantic Vis Loop
Yes, it looks nice and I will continue to keep an eye on it. For the meantime I have to go.
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Quoting stormhank:
I was lookin at shear charts earlier isnt shear over gom n carribean easing up some? I noticed a 40kt area though east of antilles?
Yes, it's easing a bit but shouldn't really go away for a while, I would say another 10 days.

GFS 72 hour shear forecast:
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3880. xcool
tropical ABOUT TO OPEN can whoop a---- SOON..IMO
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
3879. beell


Tropical wave near 37N amplifying some since this morning. Scooting right along also. May be better than the 10 knots posted in the afternoon TWD.

Also a nice set of pinwheels in the stratus deck SW of the Canary Islands (towards the upper right of the pic)
Von Karmen Vorticies
Eastrern Tropical Atlantic Vis Loop
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Quoting altesticstorm10:
The CATL wave should become an entity in the Caribbean around the 12th-13th as conditions will be perfect there for development. Right now the wave is located to the south of 10N so it will need to gain some latitude and reach the Caribbean where there it will combine with the monsoonal trough, high SST/TCHP and very low shear to develop into our first named tropical system of many...Alex. The steering currents will push Alex into the Gulf which is actually favorable shear-wise for the first time since September 2008.
Um no. The wave doesn't gain latitude and just goes into the Caribbean. The wave over 35˚W will continue to move westward at around 10 knots (12 MPH give or take) and will eventually make landfall over the southern Antilles, Guyana, and Venezuela. There it should probably be ripped of it's convection and it's energy should make it to the Caribbean. There the favorable conditions and monsoonal trough should allow for development. After that we don't know where it'll go, steering forecasts aren't too "reliable" after the 72 hour time-frame, imo.
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3876. xcool
Baltimorebirds good i think. how about you
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
I was lookin at shear charts earlier isnt shear over gom n carribean easing up some? I noticed a 40kt area though east of antilles?
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3872. JLPR2
Quoting altesticstorm10:

okay, my apologies and condolences, I thought you were that same guy who impersonated Drak last year and StormJunkie, STORMTOP and StormW the year before...


Yeah, dont worry about it, its natural for people to get suspicious.
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3870. xcool
TropicalWave i be busy all day...im back now..
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
3869. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting atmoaggie:
Oops. Assumption is the mother of all [snip].
(some folks do have 2 legitimate handles...not I)
neither i atmo same screenname and email since day one even when banned i do the time without trying to get around it
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3866. JLPR2
and no one can impersonate me so well like myself LOL!
Smileys and everything xD
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3865. xcool
ecmwf show low in gom .take it with a grain of salt.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
3862. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalWave:
Not at all, my Boriqua-counterpart. Just ignore taht troll. Dont let them hurt your feelings that way, remember, sticks and stones........ Anyways, how you've been? How's the weather in PR?


Nice, finally after a whole week or I dont know how long of rainy and cloudy days, I just returned from my little vacation at a Hotel In San Juan, back to reality. XD
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3861. xcool
heyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Oops. Assumption is the mother of all [snip].
(some folks do have 2 legitimate handles...not I)
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3857. Makoto1
Quoting altesticstorm10:


Wind shear is very weak in the Gulf and Caribbean as the subtropical jet has gone poof...The Atlantic shear remains moderately unfavorable north of 12-13N, though it is running well below average and likely will through the entire hurricane season.


Looks like anything west of about 70W in the Caribbean needs to be watched really closely. I'm really amazed at how quickly the shear dropped in the Gulf, let's hope nothing gets there to take advantage of it.

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About

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