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 largeeyes:


Was on Grand Cayman 4 months later on a cruise. They were reroofing a church I believe in the port at the time. Every tree leaned one way, many seemed stripped. The dive shop said they lost their roof in the storm and it flooded the store. Evidently what I thought was beach had, previous to Ivan, been a back yard.
Most of the trees were stripped and leaning. Caymanians flying over after Ivan didn't even recognize Grand Cayman.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Ok so 1985 and 2005?


1985 had 6 landfalls 2005 had 5 landfalls.

Later all.
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746
I dont know that its so ridiculous ...
Given estimates of oil reservoir size (given by BP so take with a whole box of salt) and the estimated leak rates, atleast 10 years + doesnt seem too ridiculous
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The 1886 hurricane chart from HURDAT



We sure don't need another season like that. All 7 landfalling in the GOM.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Ok so 1985 and 2005?
No I said the wrong thing, the US only. The year was 1985, I really don't think 1886 could be called reliable.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Would you really use 1886? I'm sure back then they called a severe thunderstorm a "hurricane". I prefer using 1985.


you also asked since 1900

and 2005 also had 6 landfalling Hurricanes

Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Beta
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Quoting Levi32:


That could be, but why lower the resolution if your calculations of the values are already questionable to begin with. All of the data going into the calculation of the TCHP, from what I understand, comes from satellite measurements, so there is no resolution or data coverage issue.

Other sites like this have 2008 as warmer than this year: (no archive farther back than '08)




See 725?

Again, a bit of a WAG with a touch of SWAG, maybe.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The most landfalling hurricanes in the USA is 7 in the 1886 season.
Would you really use 1886? I'm sure back then they called a severe thunderstorm a "hurricane". I prefer using 1985.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The most landfalling hurricanes in the USA is 7 in the 1886 season.
He asked since the 1900's
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3
A. 2004
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Quoting SouthALWX:

my original post said exactly that. this would be after everything failed, including the relief wells. this is to try to avoid the 24 year worst case scenario leak Ive heard tossed around.


Yup...ridiculous rumors do tend to lead to ridiculous solutions.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Just general. Remember it's hurricanes.


Ok so 1985 and 2005?
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Quoting msgambler:
SouthALWX, Before they ever concidered setting off any kind of explosive devise they would have to do months of research to determine if the concussion from the explosion would not cause any problems for existing wells within miles of the area. So I believe that would be the last of all last resorts.

my original post said exactly that. this would be after everything failed, including the relief wells. this is to try to avoid the 24 year worst case scenario leak Ive heard tossed around.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Were you talking US landfalls or landfalls anywhere in the Atlantic?
US only.*
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Correct!


Were you talking US landfalls or landfalls anywhere in the Atlantic?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3
B.6
Member Since: February 14, 2004 Posts: 2 Comments: 664
Quoting StormSurgeon:
Good, maybe tar balls will was on shore in the British Isles. Dauphin Island has now been hit as well as Gulf Shores. Sorry Pensacola Beach but it looks like your next. Anybody have any good news?


Why would you wish tar balls on the shore of England...little vindictive for my tastes...especially being ENGLISH
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


B- 6
Correct!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
SouthALWX, Before they ever concidered setting off any kind of explosive devise they would have to do months of research to determine if the concussion from the explosion would not cause any problems for existing wells within miles of the area. So I believe that would be the last of all last resorts.
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I chose B 6 see you tomorrow!
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


What about Otto? Any storm that's spelled backwards the same as it is forwards has got to be trouble!
Let's hope we don't get that far ......
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Could have to do with the 26C isotherm-from-SSH validity?
(Yes, is a WAG)

But, the limit of the resolution surely isn't the SST...


That could be, but why lower the resolution if your calculations of the values are already questionable to begin with. All of the data going into the calculation of the TCHP, from what I understand, comes from satellite measurements, so there is no resolution or data coverage issue.

Other sites like this have 2008 as warmer than this year: (no archive farther back than '08)



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Quoting gulfcoastdweller:
IKE, GAMB are you on? I just heard that all Al waters are closed to fishing ( but freshwater) and they are telling ppl not to go into the water......have you guys heard this too?


Alabama waters to the state boundaries are closed to commercial fishing since yesterday. The snapper season lasted from noon on June 1 til around 5 pm, and yes, people are being advised not to go into the water as far west as Destin.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3


B- 6
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3


the answer is a-4
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Quoting largeeyes:
is Grand Isle the ground zero of the oil spill effects? Obama seems to like the place.

For now, it is the most affected place accessible by road.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Good, maybe tar balls will was on shore in the British Isles. Dauphin Island has now been hit as well as Gulf Shores. Sorry Pensacola Beach but it looks like your next. Anybody have any good news?
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Could have to do with the 26C isotherm-from-SSH validity?
(Yes, is a WAG)

But, the limit of the resolution surely isn't the SST...

Or could be smoothing of the SSH considering that the SSH isn't measured everywhere but every 10 days due to the orbits of the altimeter satellites and the tiny swath ("Pencil beam", it's called).
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
You guys got hammered by ivan saw some youtube videos and it still didnt do justice of how bad it was.


Was on Grand Cayman 4 months later on a cruise. They were reroofing a church I believe in the port at the time. Every tree leaned one way, many seemed stripped. The dive shop said they lost their roof in the storm and it flooded the store. Evidently what I thought was beach had, previous to Ivan, been a back yard.
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indeed it is true. and sad.
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Well guys i will see you guys tomorrow i have to pack and get ready to travel to texas to visit my mother so tomorrow i will be posting deep in the heart of texas!
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Quoting mfaria101:


I am normally a lurker but simply cannot let this pass, the idea of sterilizing the gulf waters with a hydrogen bomb and placing that radiation into the loop current to travel around the globe would, in my mind, be an even larger crime than the one BP has already committed.
-back to lurking-

didnt say hydrogen. wouldnt sterilize the gulf (people still live in japan last I checked.)
Radiation is all around you. I doubt anywhere outside of the gulf would be able to detect any higher than normal radiation. And if we burrowed the nuke 300 feet underground or so and in parallel to the well piping .... You may not even be able to tell a nuke went off anywhere except at the site itself.
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Hurricane Trivia

Since the 1900s, what was the greatest number of land-falling hurricanes in one season?

A. 4
B. 6
C. 9
D. 3
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting gulfcoastdweller:
IKE, GAMB are you on? I just heard that all Al waters are closed to fishing ( but freshwater) and they are telling ppl not to go into the water......have you guys heard this too?
Yes, it's true
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Quoting Levi32:


What I don't understand is why the spatial resolution had to go down. They obviously have SST data with higher resolution than that.

Could have to do with the 26C isotherm-from-SSH validity?
(Yes, is a WAG)

But, the limit of the resolution surely isn't the SST...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
is Grand Isle the ground zero of the oil spill effects? Obama seems to like the place.
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Quoting Clearwater1:
Here is a hypothetical (or not) question for the group. I live about a mile from the Gulf in Pasco County, FL. Should a strong hurricane hit and toss oil along with the rain at my home, will my insurance company pay for the clean up or will they tell me to look to BP for relief? Anyone have an idea or thoughts on the subject? Or maybe a hurricane would not toss oil inland a mile at all. Certainly it would effect those directly on the coast so same question for those homeowners. Thanks in advance.


Don't count on your homeowner's insurance policy covering oil cleanup. I'd check with your agent and see if they require a rider policy for environmental contamination. The crude oil from the BP spill may not be within your insurance company's definition of a "pollutant" or "environmental contaminant", so it may not be covered under your policy.

Being a mile from the gulf, you probably will see few effects if any from the oil, unless you're in a low-lying area subject to storm surge. If your home is 15' above sea level, I wouldn't worry too much about the oil from a surge. If the seas rise more than that, you'll have bigger problems than just an oil sheen. And in that case, the oil sheen will fall under a category of "contaminant" as defined by your national FLOOD INSURANCE. Your homeowner's insurance wouldn't cover the surge related oil sheen and contamination.



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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
only 3 houses were left standing in tampa at that time


Yes, but in 1921 Tampa only had 15 houses total... (j.k.)
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10266
Quoting atmoaggie:

The THCP product underwent big changes to the algorithm in Oct 2008 and no reprocessing of historical data was conducted. So, the pre-Oct2008 plots are of different values and math than post-Oct2008. Comparisons probably mean nothing at all.


What I don't understand is why the spatial resolution had to go down. They obviously have SST data with higher resolution than that.
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Afternoon, all. Just sitting down to the computer after enjoying the last hour or so of tropical downpours. We even had a case of "liquid sunshine" for a while, with the sun shining on the west side of the house lighting up the rain drops....

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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:
2005:



2010:


The THCP product underwent big changes to the algorithm in Oct 2008 and no reprocessing of historical data was conducted. So, the pre-Oct2008 plots are of different values and math than post-Oct2008. Comparisons probably mean nothing at all.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting Floodman:


Climatologically speaking? Yes; the numbers are against you.

From a reality driven standpiont? No idea at all, and anyone that tells you they know for sure is either a liar or an idiot

Again, I think we had the same mom...

Mine, too, taught me to be honest...so sometimes brutal honesty comes out.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting SouthALWX:

Its sad ... but reality is the amount of damage ecologically that a low yield tactical nuclear device 5000' below in a large body of water is negligible imo. MUCH less damage than the oil for sure. Of course, it needs to be a last resort because should it fail the only thing that could help would be more nukes until it sealed because I doubt the original well would remain intact due to the shockwave and pressure, therfor eliminating the chance of a relief wall tapping it.

edit: Of course, after the nuke sealed it a containment dome could be placed and cemented into place, further reducing ecological damage.


I am normally a lurker but simply cannot let this pass, the idea of sterilizing the gulf waters with a hydrogen bomb and placing that radiation into the loop current to travel around the globe would, in my mind, be an even larger crime than the one BP has already committed.
-back to lurking-
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Great read and he has a point:

Max Mayfield's Hurricane Blog

A Better Way To Measure Seasonal Hurricane Activity



Most people like to gauge how active a given hurricane season is by the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes. Those numbers may be misleading because a system could be designated a tropical storm (or hurricane) for a few hours and still be counted the same as a tropical storm (or hurricane) that lasts for several days.

A much more robust measure of total seasonal activity is something called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index. The ACE index is a wind energy index, and is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the sum of the squares of the maximum sustained surface wind speed (in knots) measured every six hours for all named systems while they are at least tropical storm strength. The ACE index accounts for the intensity and duration of storms and hurricanes.

Yesterday’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook from Drs. Klotzbach and Gray called for an ACE of 185 (104 knots2). This is nearly double the average ACE value from 1950-2000 which is 96 (104 knots2).

Last week’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook from NOAA estimated a 70% chance that the 2010 seasonal ACE range will be 155%-270% of the median. The median in this case is simply the value of 1950-2000 ACE values below and above which there is an equal number of values. According to NOAA, an ACE value above 117% of the median reflects an above-normal season. If that is confusing, just know that NOAA considers an ACE value above 175% of median to reflect an exceptionally active or hyperactive season.

Fact: The El Nino that, in part, decreased Atlantic hurricane activity in 2009 is transitioning to neutral conditions. We will likely encounter neutral or La Nina conditions during the 2010 hurricane season. There are typically more U.S. landfalls in neutral and La Nina years.

It would seem wise to take preparedness messages for this hurricane season seriously.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193

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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.