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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Sorry Jeff i was chatting on my site with another blogger...
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1305. centex
<.PREV DISCUSSION... /ISSUED 838 PM CDT FRI JUN 4 2010/

UPDATE...
UPPER LOW TO THE EAST AND NORTHERLY FLOW ON FORWARD SIDE OF UPPER
RIDGE TO THE WEST HAS AREA UNDER A ZONE OF SUBSIDENCE WHICH SHOULD
RESULT IN A SLACKENING WIND FIELD LATER TONIGHT WITH TEMPERATURES
LOWERING INTO THE 60S OVER ALL BUT THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY AS WELL
AS EXTREME EAST AREAS WHERE READINGS WILL BE NEAR 70 TO MID 70S.
THIS IS REFLECTED WELL IN THE CURRENT FORECAST PACKAGE SO NO
UPDATE IS PLANNED.
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1304. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting KoritheMan:


Okay fair enough. At what time frame would you generally regard the models as useless with long-range forecasts, then?


It is not so much the models buddy it's the pattern that is developing for mid June. Models can be inconsistant so it is important to know weather patterns and how they could play a role down the road. When I was in meteorology in college this is what i was tought.
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1302. Levi32
Quoting KoritheMan:


Okay fair enough. At what time frame would you generally regard the models as useless with long-range forecasts, then?


Never.

And before you shoot me lol, I don't forecast a sunny day 12 days from now because the GFS says so. No, models are tools to be used to show us possible scenarios and give us insight into what could come from a situation. It is our job as Meteorologists to utilize the models, not be led around by them by the hand, and use them as tools to help us in our forecasting. Ultimately, it comes down to us, not the computer. Indeed, it is even our job to correct the models when we know they are wrong, which they are almost every day on some level.
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Know its not weather related... but as a fellow Hoosier.. RIP Coach Wooden, greatest of all time
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1300. Levi32
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Do you have the shear forcast for the same area during the same time frame?


Shear forecasts are worthless 10-15 days out. The overall pattern, though, favors more dominant upper ridging, which results in less wind shear. It is not long now before something will finally pop down there.
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Quoting Skyepony:


Saw two mesocyclones this week. Really dark one today running over Palm Bay. Best I'd seen since last fall. Wished for a camera.

You've out done me in rain, only ~20" here so far.


Just about everybody in interior east C FL has done well this year mainly due to El-Nino. Orlando International which has missed some of the heaviest storms has still seen 25 close to 26" so far this year.
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Quoting Levi32:


Though, the overall pattern can be diagnosed in the long-range, especially when you have model support backing you up.

I posted this earlier. It is possible we could see mischief between June 10th and 20th.

"Other concerns are these strong African waves starting to pile up air in the western Caribbean and build up heat in that area. One can see suggestions of this on the models. Both the European and GFS ensembles show lowering of heights near central America as well as an increase in precipitation, indicative of building heat.

I would watch this area between June 10th and 20th.

ECMWF Ensembles Day 5 500mb:



ECMWF Ensembles Day 8 500mb:



GFS Ensembles Day 8 500mb normalized anomalies:



GFS Ensembles Precipitation Day 8:




Okay fair enough. At what time frame would you generally regard the models as useless with long-range forecasts, then?
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1297. centex
src="http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/gmex/flash-rb.html" alt="" />
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1296. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55519
Quoting Levi32:


Though, the overall pattern can be diagnosed in the long-range, especially when you have model support backing you up.

I posted this earlier. It is possible we could see mischief between June 10th and 20th.

"Other concerns are these strong African waves starting to pile up air in the western Caribbean and build up heat in that area. One can see suggestions of this on the models. Both the European and GFS ensembles show lowering of heights near central America as well as an increase in precipitation, indicative of building heat.

I would watch this area between June 10th and 20th.

ECMWF Ensembles Day 5 500mb:



ECMWF Ensembles Day 8 500mb:



GFS Ensembles Day 8 500mb normalized anomalies:



GFS Ensembles Precipitation Day 8:




Hey Levi, I've watching this on the models as well. I just never posted a comment about this because I wanted to see several days of models runs before i come on here and comment. There nothing during that time to slow developement and i think a strong hurricane may come out of this area come mid June due to the excessive heat content in the Caribbean.
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Quoting Levi32:


Though, the overall pattern can be diagnosed in the long-range, especially when you have model support backing you up.

I posted this earlier. It is possible we could see mischief between June 10th and 20th.

"Other concerns are these strong African waves starting to pile up air in the western Caribbean and build up heat in that area. One can see suggestions of this on the models. Both the European and GFS ensembles show lowering of heights near central America as well as an increase in precipitation, indicative of building heat.

I would watch this area between June 10th and 20th.

ECMWF Ensembles Day 5 500mb:



ECMWF Ensembles Day 8 500mb:



GFS Ensembles Day 8 500mb normalized anomalies:



GFS Ensembles Precipitation Day 8:


Do you have the shear forcast for the same area during the same time frame?
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1293. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Jeff9641:


Yeah I was surprised to come home from work to branches down in my yard some quite large. It now has rained here everyday since last Friday. Now I have seen almost 31" of rain this year with the 3.5" this week.


Saw two mesocyclones this week. Really dark one today running over Palm Bay. Best I'd seen since last fall. Wished for a camera.

You've out done me in rain, only ~20" here so far.
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1292. Levi32
Quoting KoritheMan:


Agreed. I generally only go out to about seven days.


Though, the overall pattern can be diagnosed in the long-range, especially when you have model support backing you up.

I posted this earlier. It is possible we could see mischief between June 10th and 20th.

"Other concerns are these strong African waves starting to pile up air in the western Caribbean and build up heat in that area. One can see suggestions of this on the models. Both the European and GFS ensembles show lowering of heights near central America as well as an increase in precipitation, indicative of building heat.

I would watch this area between June 10th and 20th.

ECMWF Ensembles Day 5 500mb:



ECMWF Ensembles Day 8 500mb:



GFS Ensembles Day 8 500mb normalized anomalies:



GFS Ensembles Precipitation Day 8:


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Quoting KoritheMan:


Agreed. I generally only go out to about seven days.


Just watch as Alex will occur mid June in the Caribbean more specific NW Caribbean. Perfect setup for a system to occur. The fact that models have been constant with this for 5 days now leaves me wondering about our potential for a strong system down the road. 2005 may be coming a reality.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
The blob of clouds in the BOC appears to be Divergence with no surface low YET! But something to watch for the next couple of days

agreed,it is something to watch
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Does anyone think the CAP is working like they are saying......if they cannot tell us how much is being collected....its hard to believe anything is being collected.


It doesn't appear to be working at all. I have tried to stay positive and give it time to work, but nothing has happened...except the oil is coming out faster with their latest effort.
Member Since: September 14, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 283
Quoting TampaSpin:
The blob of clouds in the BOC appears to be Divergence with no surface low YET! But something to watch for the next couple of days


Glad to see you back Tampa.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


That is way too much to assume over a period of 10 days


Agreed. I generally only go out to about seven days.
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Quoting centex:
It's just a AOI with the TCFP folks marking it, only time will tell. With the TX/LA ULL retrogarading and TX/MEX ULL it's very suspect on future.
Tx/La ULL will be exiting to the east as if becomes a trof between the High centered in the gulf and the building High from west Texas; according to local news outlets and Hou/Gal NWS
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Quoting Skyepony:


Nothing like those powerpoles all blown down in a line, but I've had to stand some of my corn back up both yesterday & today.


Yeah I was surprised to come home from work to branches down in my yard some quite large. It now has rained here everyday since last Friday. Now I have seen almost 31" of rain this year with the 3.5" this week.
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1284. xcool
btwntx08 i agree
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
The blob of clouds in the BOC appears to be Divergence with no surface low YET! But something to watch for the next couple of days
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that down there is very interesting
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


That is way too much to assume over a period of 10 days


Agree but the pattern would indicate something will try to form. You don't have to believe but just watch as this looks likely.
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1280. xcool



Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1279. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Jeff9641:


Hey Skye, I had some wind damage from severe storms here in Longwood today did you get any as Melbourne looks like it got hit hard too?


Nothing like those powerpoles all blown down in a line, but I've had to stand some of my corn back up both yesterday & today.
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1278. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55519
1277. Levi32
It should be noted that most of this convection was initiated by daytime heating over land, but the 700mb system is directly underneath and is enhancing the convection activity.

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Quoting xcool:
mmm boc


I don't think anything will occur there but this will provide enhanced heavy rain to Florida Sunday & Monday. I would watch the Caribbean in 10 to 12 days for what I think could be a solid hurricane in the NW Caribbean.
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1275. centex
It's not like no chance.

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Quoting Jeff9641:
Tropics are about to come to life in about 10 to 11 days. Perfect conditions for our first TS/hurricane of the year to be born in the NW Caribbean. If this occurs we could be dealing with a beast as water temps are in the mid to upper 80's even in the gulf now as well.


That is way too much to assume over a period of 10 days
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Quoting Skyepony:


Hey Skye, I had some wind damage from severe storms here in Longwood today did you get any as Melbourne looks like it got hit hard too?
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AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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1271. xcool
mmm boc
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1270. Skyepony (Mod)
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night all!!!!
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Tropics are about to come to life in about 10 to 11 days. Perfect conditions for our first TS/hurricane of the year to be born in the NW Caribbean. If this occurs we could be dealing with a beast as water temps are in the mid to upper 80's even in the gulf now as well.
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1267. centex
It's just a AOI with the TCFP folks marking it, only time will tell. With the TX/LA ULL retrogarading and TX/MEX ULL it's very suspect on future.
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It is looking that Alex may be born around mid June in the Caribbean then moving north into the eastern gulf. GFS has been hinting at this for awhile as has other models.
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1265. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
AOI/BOC/GOM
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55519
This could enhance our rainfall Sunday and Monday in Florida if I got this right. WV is showing moisture already beginning to get pulled NE toward FL.
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it most be time too find that Ignore for my mother in law
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Quoting StormW:


Around 25N
Just off the Brownsville coast drifting west ?
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1261. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting Hurricanes101:
Tail end of the long surface trof is in the area as well


That trough is what has pulled this feature from the EPAC.
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Quoting StormW:


Around 25N


The further east it goes, the more favorable shear becomes, according to the models.
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Tail end of the long surface trof is in the area as well
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
also an increase of 700mb vorticity with the area


GFS does not show any storm at all in the BOC. If a storm does develope there the forecast somewhere is going to change dramatically. 2 steering sceniros are one NW to Mexico or two NE to Florida. 50/50 shot at either one.
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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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