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 IKE:


Agree.

Nothing about the GOM is funny anymore. Seems like it's a fuse just waiting to be lit.

Could you imagine a cat 3 or 4 or 5 heading over that underwater oil volcano?


I imagine the total damages of a major hurricane crossing the oil spill and then making landfall on the gulf coast would be unimaginable.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Isn't an ACE of 182 considered "hyper active"?
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
304. IKE
Quoting Levi32:


Then you must have missed last year....it was massive subsidence across the entire tropical Atlantic for most of the season.


No, I was here. Maybe my memory is bad...I'm 52.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Greetings, it is about to rain. Heavily, from the look of the very dark sky welling up overhead.

Looking at the Tropical Atl, and the last couple of waves, particularly the last one and the one still over Africa that is looking 'good' again.
It is strange to see these apparently powerful waves this early in the season, (and with the existing conditions), become somewhat dissipated even though there was mid-level turning and other favourable conditions.
So, in these cases, Climotology ruled.

But what else is the reason for the death of these waves? Climo. is not a 'condition' really...

Just a question to help me understand.
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301. IKE
Quoting Levi32:
Honestly, this is not even funny:



Agree.

Nothing about the GOM is funny anymore. Seems like it's a fuse just waiting to be lit.

Could you imagine a cat 3 or 4 or 5 heading over that underwater oil volcano?
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compare maps sst's 2005 2010





Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting stormhank:
whens the next favorable phase of the MJO suppose to be back over atlantic,,gulf,,carribean ???


JULY!!!! according to the GFS... but always changing
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Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
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Scuddy T-storms could be a sign of things to come across Illinois, Indiana and wisconsin in the hours to come.

Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting IKE:


This place is infested with JFV's.




That's about as anti-MJO as I've ever seen it.


Then you must have missed last year....it was massive subsidence across the entire tropical Atlantic for most of the season.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Honestly, this is not even funny:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
293. IKE
Quoting sflawavedude:
hey buds could teh system in the gulf quite possibly form into something and move towards florida?


This place is infested with JFV's.


Quoting Drakoen:


That's about as anti-MJO as I've ever seen it.
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Quoting stormhank:
whens the next favorable phase of the MJO suppose to be back over atlantic,,gulf,,carribean ???


Likely near the end of the month into early July.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting futuremet:


I always wonder: why does he always make it so obvious?


he likes pushing people's buttons and many people fall for it...go read his comments on Cyclone Oz's Facebook page...fun stuff!
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whens the next favorable phase of the MJO suppose to be back over atlantic,,gulf,,carribean ???
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racing ne
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


What system? An EPAC system? Gotta look into this...


This one:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting Drakoen:
Ideal


As well as a scorcher for gulf SSTs which are becoming freakishly warm.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
286. xcool
HurricaneSwirl .haha
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting xcool:
The place to watch in the tropics now is Central America as the disturbance there could be a player in the Gulf early next week. The system is being pulled north by the trough over the northwest Gulf



BY JOE


What system? An EPAC system? Gotta look into this...
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Quoting Drakoen:


I am thinking the window for out first named storm in the Caribbean or GOM 10-17th


Yeah the middle part of the month could see some mischief. If we miss that though we may not see another chance until the very end of the month or early July.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting Levi32:


Yup. Interesting that he is also concerned.


The gulf is 'juicy warm' at this time- anything can go if all the ingredients come together.
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Ideal
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
281. xcool
Levi32 YEAH.:)
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting IKE:


Jeez...you type just like...JFV.
thats because it is
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting xcool:
The place to watch in the tropics now is Central America as the disturbance there could be a player in the Gulf early next week. The system is being pulled north by the trough over the northwest Gulf



BY JOE


Yup. Interesting that he is also concerned.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting Levi32:


Looks like end of the month towards the July 4th holiday could see the real kick-off of the season when the MJO comes back over.


I am really starting to think that something is going to develop in the Gulf over the next week

than the rest of the month will be quiet
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heres what Im thinkin bout storms formin thia summer..im goin with 20, 10, 4.... June 1 named,,July..2 Aug...5 Sept...6 Oct...4 n maybe 2 late season storms in Nov.... Just a guess on this...who knows it may pan out huh lol... comments are alwasy welcome..
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Quoting Levi32:


Looks like end of the month towards the July 4th holiday could see the real kick-off of the season when the MJO comes back over.


I am thinking the window for out first named storm in the Caribbean or GOM 10-17th
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
274. xcool
The place to watch in the tropics now is Central America as the disturbance there could be a player in the Gulf early next week. The system is being pulled north by the trough over the northwest Gulf



BY JOE
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Link

If you haven't viewed these vivid photos I advise you to, this is what happens when you drill with lax safety regulations...
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272. xcool
Levi32 YEAH He did speak about the western Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Tons of folks in the yet unaffected areas along the Florida Panhandle/Big Bend area, myself included this weekend,from Pensacola down the Gulf Coast of Florida are heading out in droves to the beaches and fishing thinking this might be our "last trip" until the oil starts to settle in.......LA/AL/MS is already ruined and it's like a Plaugue slowly expanding...This is all extremely sad and tragic......Millions of hearts/minds are broken already as the oil begins to wash up in your own back yard (instead of watching it on television from a distance).......I fish around and out of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf south of Tallahassee and marvel there on weekends looking at the wildlife on the coastal marshes and wetlands with my children; best times of our lives fishing out there starting at dawn and all is good with the world (and bringing back fresh catches for lunch and dinner)....Lives, livelihoods and memories are being destroyed by this disaster.....You cannot put a price on that my friends.


Quality of life destroyed is tragedy.
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Quoting Drakoen:


Looks like end of the month towards the July 4th holiday could see the real kick-off of the season when the MJO comes back over.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
GOM shear took a major dip:


Caribbean remains well below normal in shear:


Tropical Atlantic region remains well below normal in shear:


The East Coast and the Subtropical Atlantic are also below normal in shear too but I don't feel like clogging the entire page up with pictures :P
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Quoting xcool:
Levi32 joe b was talk about that today in video ...


About what? The building heat in the Caribbean in the long-range that I mentioned in post 259? No he did not.

He did speak about the western Gulf of Mexico.
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267. xcool
Levi32 joe b was talk about that today in video ...
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Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
hey buds could teh system in the gulf quite possibly form into something and move towards florida?
Member Since: June 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 131
Quoting Drakoen:
I think we will see 1-2 storms in June. Long-range models showing building of heat in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. We should also see favorable upper level winds as upper level ridging becomes more dominant. We should get some disturbances toward the first half of the month.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
263. xcool



big anticyclone .
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting xcool:
HurricaneSwirl .Shear run below normal..


Yup. That's what I said :P
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Tons of folks in the yet unaffected areas along the Florida Panhandle/Big Bend area, myself included this weekend,from Pensacola down the Gulf Coast of Florida are heading out in droves to the beaches and fishing thinking this might be our "last trip" until the oil starts to settle in.......LA/AL/MS is already ruined and it's like a Plaugue slowly expanding...This is all extremely sad and tragic......Millions of hearts/minds are broken already as the oil begins to wash up in your own back yard (instead of watching it on television from a distance).......I fish around and out of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf south of Tallahassee and marvel there on weekends looking at the wildlife on the coastal marshes and wetlands with my children; best times of our lives fishing out there starting at dawn and all is good with the world (and bringing back fresh catches for lunch and dinner)....Lives, livelihoods and memories are being destroyed by this disaster.....You cannot put a price on that my friends.
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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:


Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
258. xcool
HurricaneSwirl .Shear run below normal..
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
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256. IKE
Quoting TropicalWave:
ike, can you see or smell oil from home yet?


No...


Quoting DestinJeff:


should I do it, Ikster? fish or tux?


Fish...lol.
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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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