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 FLWeatherFreak91:
I think it would be appropriate to have each incoming comment reviewed by an admin at times of heavy blog traffic. Only pertinent posts would make it through.

It would be sort of like.... the blog 2 years ago.


They'd need an insane amount of mods for that.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
Quoting hydrus:


Oh man.....I remember that all too well.
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4954. Levi32
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I think it would be appropriate to have each incoming comment reviewed by an admin at times of heavy blog traffic. Only pertinent posts would make it through.

It would be sort of like.... the blog 2 years ago.


I seriously doubt they have enough staff for that.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
I remember back in the day…when you would click quote…then you could quote the quote of the quote… and then quote the quote of the quote…etc. Glad they fixed that!
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4952. hydrus
Hurricane Charley. I went through the center of this powerful micro-cyclone.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I remember bad cases of 'blog freeze' and there were dozens, maybe hundreds of comments whining about comments not appearing on the blog for an hour. As if anyone cared with IKE bearing down. Some of the 'Fay' blogs have also had their comments cleared out.
I think it would be appropriate to have each incoming comment reviewed by an admin at times of heavy blog traffic. Only pertinent posts would make it through.

It would be sort of like.... the blog 2 years ago.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4950. hydrus
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4949. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:


That's even scarier, isn't it?
You created the psychic dome over me and read my brain.
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4948. Drakoen
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Drak, I remember when Hurricane Ike was churning in the Gulf Dr. Masters posted a blog in the morning, and by dinnertime there were more than 7,000 comments (I want to say ~7,400) and then he posted a new blog. This topic came up yesterday---and I and a few other bloggers looked back. All the comments from the IKE blogs have been wiped off.


It is a shame all the comments were wiped. Perhaps they did it for more space
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
4947. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:


That's even scarier, isn't it?
I cannot figure out WHY that image will not post.
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4946. hydrus
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
good night all

Thanks again Keep.
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4945. Grothar
Quoting hydrus:
How did you know I posted that when I cant get the image on the blog?


That's even scarier, isn't it?
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Quoting Drakoen:



I wonder what the record is for the number of comments


Probably 7K +

We'll brake that by July if we get a real storm.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
Nice chat tonight, very tranquil. Have a nice night guys
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4941. hydrus
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4939. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
good night all

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
4938. Levi32
Quoting MrstormX:


Thats interesting, for some reason it didn't appear to be.


The ITCZ extends all the way up to 10N right at the west African coast. The wave isn't coming off to the north of the ITCZ, it is embedded in it.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
4937. xcool



new ngp





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


Good Evening Storm Chaser, just think if there are 5000 posts now what will it be like when we actually have named storms to watch. Wunderground overload I suspect.


It probably will.

Can't imagine what this place will be like.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
4935. Drakoen
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Dang, almost 5000 posts

Not even July.



I wonder what the record is for the number of comments
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
4934. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:
This is an image posted by hydrus of Typhoon Tip

How did you know I posted that when I cant get the image on the blog?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Dang, almost 5000 posts

Not even July.


Good Evening Storm Chaser, just think if there are 5000 posts now what will it be like when we actually have named storms to watch. Wunderground overload I suspect.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4932. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
last image for the night big picture as of 1201 edt jun 7

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
4931. hydrus
Guess your busted Cane....No computer for aweek...
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Quoting Drakoen:


It is according to the Windsat pass and the NHC 00z surface analysis.


Thats interesting, for some reason it didn't appear to be.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4929. Grothar
Quoting caneswatch:


For an old man, i'm surprised you're up lol


Wait until I tell your mother you are still up!
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Dang, almost 5000 posts

Not even July.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
Quoting Grothar:
This is an image posted by hydrus of Typhoon Tip



Yikes, keep me away from that monster thing. Just looking at it sends a cold shiver down my spine.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4926. Levi32
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Wait though. Does that graphic show temperature changes compared to the daily average SST? Or does it just show temperature changes period?

It is approaching winter in the southern hemisphere after all. SSTs would be expected to drop there, just like in the north Atlantic and Pacific in November and December.


Yeah it's actual temperatures not anomaly changes. Either way the eastern Pacific north of the equatorial region should be warming, but it isn't due to the cold PDO/La Nina. The North Indian Ocean shouldn't be cooling but some of that is likely due to the two cyclones they have had there.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting Levi32:
Even the Indian Ocean, the only other basin destined to have an above-average tropical season this year, is on a cooling trend during the past 21 days. The only tropical basin on earth that really warmed during May was the Atlantic. This further supports the fact that the Atlantic will be the focus-point for global heat this summer. It is all contained right here....and with La Nina coming on fast like this the atmosphere will have only one option to get rid of this heat and correct the global balance, and that is through tropical cyclones.



Around this time last year we were saying the exact opposite, I remember how El Nino was warming the EPAC. I believe you did a good analysis back then as well, so your observations this year definitely scare me a little.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4924. Grothar
This is an image posted by hydrus of Typhoon Tip

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4923. Drakoen
Quoting MrstormX:


Lets keep the posting going then! I don't believe the wave emerging over Senegal is connected to the ITCZ, thoughts?


It is according to the Windsat pass and the NHC 00z surface analysis.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
Quoting Grothar:
Hey hydrus, what about this?


img src="http://" alt="" /



For an old man, i'm surprised you're up lol
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4921. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:
Hey hydrus, what about this?


img src="http://" alt="" /

What is this?
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4919. hydrus
.
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4918. Grothar
Hey hydrus, what about this?


img src="http://" alt="" /

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4917. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:



Wow, hydrus, that is one scary image!
I,ll be sure to post that on Halloween also. :)
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4916. Grothar
Quoting hydrus:
The big one.



Wow, hydrus, that is one scary image!
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Quoting xcool:
1 more page 100page wow..


Lets keep the posting going then! I don't believe the wave emerging over Senegal is connected to the ITCZ, thoughts?
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4914. Levi32
Even the Indian Ocean, the only other basin destined to have an above-average tropical season this year, is on a cooling trend during the past 21 days. The only tropical basin on earth that really warmed during May was the Atlantic. This further supports the fact that the Atlantic will be the focus-point for global heat this summer. It is all contained right here....and with La Nina coming on fast like this the atmosphere will have only one option to get rid of this heat and correct the global balance, and that is through tropical cyclones.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
4913. Drakoen
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
So how bout it Drakoen. I said if a storm is named in the Atlantic basin south of 25 N and east of 60 W by June 30 I'd put my shirt back on. What are the odds?


Not very high lol. I am thinking the focus for June with be primarily in the Caribbean.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
4912. hydrus
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4911. xcool
1 more page 100page wow..
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
4910. hydrus
The big one.
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Quoting Levi32:
SST changes for the last 10 days shows the cooling going on in the eastern Pacific during a time when it should be warming due to summer solstice.



The effect of La Nina also appears to have recently become quite prominent, evidenced by the lack of significant convection in the East Pacific, as well as the noticeable lack of vertical shear across the Atlantic.
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no alex in the gulf today just caused rain showers on coast. all my attention is now on the possible future alex wave in east atlantic! :)
Member Since: June 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 131
Levi, your synopsis of the cooling event in the EPAC is very scary, I seem to recall that happening in 2005 as well, but not to this extent.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
4906. hydrus
...................Largest recorded tropical cyclone.........
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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.