Long-range prospects for oil to enter the Loop Current and hit the Keys

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6. toukokuuta 2010 klo 15:21 (GMT)

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The oil slick from the April 20 explosion and blowout of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon is moving little, thanks to the light winds of 10 knots or less that have affected the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past few days. According to the latest NWS marine forecast, winds will remain light through Saturday, which should result in little transport of the oil slick. The latest trajectory forecast from the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration continues to show that the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Chandeleur Islands will be the only land areas affected by the spill over the next two days.

On Sunday, the winds will begin increasing and shifting to the southeast. The latest run of the GFS model shows that this will be a week-long period of southeast winds, with wind speeds at times reaching 20 - 25 knots. These winds will threaten to bring oil to a large portion of the Louisiana coast, including regions of the central Louisiana coast west of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi and Alabama coasts will also be at risk next week, but the risk to the Florida Panhandle is lower.


Figure 1. Forecast location of the oil spill for Friday, May 7, 2010. Image credit: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. See also the trajectory maps available at State of Louisiana web site.

Long-range prospects for oil to enter the Loop Current
A major concern with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the possibility for the oil to move southwards and become entrained into the mighty Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, which would rapidly transport the oil through the Florida Keys, impacting northwest Cuba, South Florida, the western Bahamas, and the U.S. East Coast all the way to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, there is no immediate danger of this happening. The latest forecast of Gulf currents from the NOAA HYCOM model (see also this alternative view of the HYCOM ocean current forecast) indicate that the currents will not be favorable for pulling any oil southwards into the Loop Current over the next five days. Oil will have to travel approximately 100 miles to the south-southeast to get entrained into the Loop Current, and we probably would need a 2+ day period of strong winds out of the north for this to happen. The long-range GFS model indicates that the earliest this might happen is 10+ days from now. As summer gets closer, the incidence of cold fronts making it far enough south to bring an extended period of offshore northerly winds to the Gulf of Mexico decreases. I think there is a 40% chance that the next cold front capable of pushing oil into the Loop Current will arrive by the end of June. However, I think it is more likely that the next such front will not arrive until October, when fall comes.

That makes a tropical storm or hurricane as perhaps the most likely weather event to push oil into the Loop Current over the next few months. A tropical storm hitting the Panhandle of Florida would do the trick, by bringing northerly winds over the oil spill location, thanks to the counter-clockwise flow of air around the storm. Looking ahead to June, June tropical storms tend to form in the Gulf of Mexico, and we've been averaging one June storm every two years since 1995. This year, the odds of a June Gulf of Mexico storm are probably a little lower than usual. While Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures are near average, wind shear from our lingering El Niño will probably be above average. Since 1995, there have been three June tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico that have followed a track capable of pushing oil into the Loop Current. These storms were Hurricane Allison of 1995, Tropical Storm Allison of 2001, and Tropical Storm Arlene of 2005. Taking into account all these factors, I'll give a 20% chance that we'll get a June tropical storm capable of transporting oil into the Loop Current.


Figure 2. Tracks of all June tropical storms and hurricanes, 1851 - 2006.

Next Post
I'll have a new post Friday. Next week, I'm in Tucson for the American Meteorological Society's bi-annual conference on hurricane science, and will be updating you on all the latest advancements in hurricane research.

Jeff Masters

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676. IKE
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 13:43 (GMT)
NEW BLOG...
Member Since: 9.06.2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
675. CycloneOz
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 13:22 (GMT)
I still believe our 1st system is going to start right there...and either run off to the east or dive into Belize.
Member Since: 26.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
674. presslord
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 13:05 (GMT)
Quoting K8eCane:
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.



that, oddly enough, makes a lot of sense to me...
Member Since: 13.08.2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458
673. weathermanwannabe
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 13:01 (GMT)
Quoting K8eCane:
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.


Yup.....I think this little "thingie" down there may have officially kicked off our "blob watch" this season.
Member Since: 8.08.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8274
672. K8eCane
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:59 (GMT)
our first system will be when and where we least expect it. It will be a year of unexplainable tropical phenomenon.
Member Since: 26.04.2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3040
671. weathermanwannabe
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:58 (GMT)
Quoting altesticstorm10:

Or, we could see one of each (Adrian, then Arlene)

or, we could see one cross over and get a sex change (Alma-Arthur)


True............. :)
Member Since: 8.08.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8274
669. weathermanwannabe
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:53 (GMT)
Good Morning. Yup, that little area of persistent convection in the SW Caribbean might be the "crystal ball" event as to where we might see our first storm of the season in the Atlantic basin as the ITCZ is moving along nicely and slowly moving North. Problem right now is still too much shear, and as noted yesterday by another Blogger, that the active ITCZ may well signal a very active E-Pac season as the activity moves towards Central America/Panama area where this area is currently located. Have to watch the upcoming MJO cycle but I am not certain that the first storm to form down there, in mid-May to early June, will be an Atlantic Basin event; it could well be an E-Pac storm........Will have to wait to see what happens but that general area seems to be the one to watch over the coming weeks.
Member Since: 8.08.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8274
667. CyclonicVoyage
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:50 (GMT)
quite a few meso cyclones in my area yesterday. Palm Beach Gardens got nickel size hail.
Member Since: 30.01.2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
665. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:49 (GMT)
Quoting CycloneOz:


PensacolaDoug and I were fishing on a dock at Bayou Davenport in Warrington when a tropical depression began to form right above us.

Eventually, the depression moved off to the south and west and went into LA...but before it did, it dropped copious amounts of rain on us.

In one of the downbursts, the rain came hard and straight down, but stopped at the edge of the dock we were on. We were not getting wet at all, not a drop, but we could stick our arm out over the edge of the dock and put it into the rain up to our shoulder.

The rain snaked across the bayou out in front of us. It looked like a solid wall.



as my grandfather always said

wait things happen
Member Since: 15.07.2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
664. CyclonicVoyage
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:47 (GMT)
Quoting Jeff9641:


Today is more complicated across C FL.


From the NWS

...FL...

STRONG DIABATIC HEATING WILL ENHANCE THERMAL CIRCULATIONS ALONG SEA
BREEZES LATER TODAY ACROSS THE CNTRL/SRN PENINSULA. NWLY FLOW AT
MID LEVELS IS A EXPECTED TO BE A BIT STRONGER THAN THURSDAY...THUS
ACTIVITY MAY BE MORE ORGANIZED AND POSSIBLY REQUIRING AN UPGRADE TO
SLIGHT RISK AS THE EVENT UNFOLDS. LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING
DOWNBURSTS ARE POSSIBLE WITH STRONG MULTI CELL...AND PERHAPS A FEW
SUPERCELL STRUCTURES.
Member Since: 30.01.2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
662. TropicTraveler
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:40 (GMT)
CycloneOz - Is that a fish story? Only kidding - really interesting.
Member Since: 24.07.2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 917
660. ftpiercecane
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:33 (GMT)
Yesterdays T storms almost got to the east side of Saint Lucie county last night. Good lightning show for a little bit. Back to summer seabreeze thunderstorms.
Member Since: 9.10.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 204
659. Chicklit
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:25 (GMT)
from AP Story this morning by Harry Weber and Tamara Lush:

...the crane lifted the containment box from the deck and into the Gulf after 10 p.m. CDT, dark oil clinging to its white sides as it entered the water and disappeared below the surface.

The technology has been used a few times in shallow waters, but never at such extreme depths -- 5,000 feet down, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine.

The box -- which looks a lot like a peaked, 40-foot-high outhouse, especially on the inside, with its rough timber framing -- must be accurately positioned over the well, or it could damage the leaking pipe and make the problem worse.

BP spokesman Doug Suttles said he is not concerned about that happening. Underwater robots have been clearing pieces of pipe and other debris near where the box will be placed to avoid complications.

"We do not believe it could make things worse," he said.


Other risks include ice clogs in the pipes -- a problem that crews will try to prevent by continuously pumping in warm water and methanol -- and the danger of explosion when separating the mix of oil, gas and water that is brought to the surface.

"I'm worried about every part, as you can imagine," said David Clarkson, BP vice president of engineering projects.

If the box works, a second one now being built may be used to deal with a second, smaller leak from the sea floor.

"Hopefully, it will work better than they expect," Peake, said.


Big Polluter has credibility issues.
At least the engineer on the ground says he's worried.
Member Since: 11.07.2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11036
658. CycloneOz
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:19 (GMT)
Quoting severstorm:
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.


PensacolaDoug and I were fishing on a dock at Bayou Davenport in Warrington when a tropical depression began to form right above us.

Eventually, the depression moved off to the south and west and went into LA...but before it did, it dropped copious amounts of rain on us.

In one of the downbursts, the rain came hard and straight down, but stopped at the edge of the dock we were on. We were not getting wet at all, not a drop, but we could stick our arm out over the edge of the dock and put it into the rain up to our shoulder.

The rain snaked across the bayou out in front of us. It looked like a solid wall.

Member Since: 26.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
657. TropicTraveler
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:19 (GMT)
Good morning all, heard on the news that there are tar balls on Mississipi beaches this morning - didn't see any pictures though. Anybody living there who can confirm? Now if only the ants could converge on them and find them yummy....
Member Since: 24.07.2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 917
655. severstorm
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:15 (GMT)
Quoting Jeff9641:


That's Florida! I had the same thing happen in my area yesterday.

Hi jeff, yes your right this is florida. and you said i would get some rain. bravo to you.
Member Since: 25.11.2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 956
653. tkeith
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:14 (GMT)
Quoting CycloneOz:
A mission to the bottom of the sea to try to avert a wider environmental disaster progressed early Friday as crews said a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box was close to being placed over a blown-out well on the Gulf floor in an unprecedented attempt to capture gushing oil.

Douglas Peake, the first mate of the supply boat that brought the box to the site, confirmed a radio transmission from the nearby vessel lowering the device that said the device would be in position over the well soon.
with the way things have gone so far...I wouldn't be surprised the next headline reads "Drum on crane lowering coffer Dome only had 4900 ft of cable. BP expects to lift coffer dome back to the surface and refit drum with adequate amount of cable more details to follow"

I hope this works...
Member Since: 1.11.2004 Posts: 25 Comments: 8912
652. CycloneOz
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:14 (GMT)
Quoting WarEagle8:
Noticed this little flare-up in the SW portion of the pix (NW of South America).




I believe that is the spot where our 1st tropical system will form in about two weeks.

If you look at the ITCZ, all the energy being sent from Africa is funneling right up into that area...off Panama.

It's only a matter of time now...
Member Since: 26.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
651. K8eCane
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:14 (GMT)
Quoting severstorm:
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.

That reminds me that one time we needed rain so bad, and it was coming, but then it stopped about 100 ft from our house, AT THE STOP SIGN. No Joke. Several of us saw it
Member Since: 26.04.2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3040
649. WarEagle8
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:07 (GMT)
Noticed this little flare-up in the SW portion of the pix (NW of South America).


Member Since: 19.08.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 121
648. CycloneOz
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 12:02 (GMT)
A mission to the bottom of the sea to try to avert a wider environmental disaster progressed early Friday as crews said a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box was close to being placed over a blown-out well on the Gulf floor in an unprecedented attempt to capture gushing oil.

Douglas Peake, the first mate of the supply boat that brought the box to the site, confirmed a radio transmission from the nearby vessel lowering the device that said the device would be in position over the well soon.
Member Since: 26.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
647. msmanatee
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:51 (GMT)
I've been here for years but try to keep my mouth shut because I'm no meteorologist; I learn so much here and thank you all for that. Hoping someone can advise me...
Of course on Florida's west coast, we are obsessing over the loop current. On another forum I belong to, speculation is that surface currents aren't the same as deep currents. Ergo, could the underwater oil plume be migrating faster than surface pattern indicates? This doesn't make intuitive sense to me but I'm hoping you can direct me to a laymen-level explanation. If it's on this thread already, I will go back farther (just back to peanut butter post #1 right now)!
Thanks!
ETA: I should have said "migrating in a different direction than surface currents indicate" sorry. We realize loop current predominates, just don't know if there are additional possibilities hiding out there...
Member Since: 1.06.2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
646. BenBIogger
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:48 (GMT)
Negative NAO
Member Since: 19.03.2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1419
645. severstorm
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:37 (GMT)
Morning all, My wife told me it rained in the front yard for 10 mins then it started in the back yard. I have 2 gauges one in the front had 1.14 and back had .93. Little crazy. Wish i could have been there to see that.
Member Since: 25.11.2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 956
644. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:36 (GMT)
Member Since: 15.07.2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
643. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:34 (GMT)
Quoting aquak9:
still cleaning up peanut butter here...
watch out for the ants
Member Since: 15.07.2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
642. wunderkidcayman
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:34 (GMT)
oh great now it more tropical waves

Member Since: 13.06.2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9553
641. Engine2
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:28 (GMT)
Quoting IKE:


There's nothing on either one of them related to the Atlantic. Not sure what he's "wowing" about.
Thanks IKE I just took a look at the ones from wunderground and there is absolutely nothing noteworthy on them.
Member Since: 27.02.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
640. aquak9
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:13 (GMT)
still cleaning up peanut butter here...
Member Since: 13.08.2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
639. MahFL
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:08 (GMT)
IKE, I was thinking the same thing too, maybe it was some sarcasim, which is hard to portray online.
Member Since: 9.06.2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 2905
638. IKE
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 11:05 (GMT)
Quoting Engine2:
Can you post links to them please? Thanks I'm on another computer don't have my bookmarks


There's nothing on either one of them related to the Atlantic. Not sure what he's "wowing" about.
Member Since: 9.06.2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
637. stormwatcherCI
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 10:58 (GMT)
TROPICAL WAVES...

A SERIES OF TROPICAL WAVES ARE EMBEDDED IN THE ITCZ. ONE JUST
OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA ALONG 15W...A SECOND ONE ALONG
36W...AND A THIRD ONE ALONG 45W. TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER VALUES
ARE ELEVATED NEAR THESE WAVES. SCATTERED MODERATE TO HEAVY
SHOWERS ARE WITHIN 80 NM OF EACH WAVE AXIS.
Member Since: 9.10.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8242
636. Engine2
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 10:24 (GMT)
Quoting xcool:
look at cmc and gfs wow
Can you post links to them please? Thanks I'm on another computer don't have my bookmarks
Member Since: 27.02.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
634. xcool
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 07:59 (GMT)
look at cmc and gfs wow
Member Since: 26.09.2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
633. xcool
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 05:33 (GMT)
mmm





kind old
Member Since: 26.09.2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
632. 789
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 05:05 (GMT)
Quoting pottery:
There was some discussion the other day about the effects that the oil spill could have on SST's in the area it is in.
Any thoughts on that?
oz has flares ready its already affecting sst
Member Since: 18.07.2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 262
631. Seastep
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:42 (GMT)
Green is another marketing ploy.

I'll buy it if it is of the same or higher quality. Otherwise, it is a waste of money.

I'm a huge CF guy now. Especially since I can now run my 1K watt chandelier lights with 275 watts and not have to replace for years.

Practical works. That's capitalism. The only true democracy ever. Vote is with the wallet and there are no elections necessary.

Although I am sure I will be pounded later that I'm using too much mercury. ;)

Goodnight.
Member Since: 9.09.2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3412
630. Levi32
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:41 (GMT)
Quoting atmoaggie:

I see your thinking, yet, I question how thoroughly any amount of hurricanes can cool the Caribbean. Yes, storms move heat, thereby removing it from a body of water, but how effectively. So effectively that they really can cool large swaths of the Caribbean where the waters are very warm and the mixed layer is very deep? I have doubts.

Could be that some other function was the limiting factor in that latitude band, as is usually the case.


That is true....the Caribbean would be the hardest area of the Atlantic to cool down. However, I would not rule it out during the year where the most storms ever recorded passed through the Caribbean.
Member Since: 24.11.2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
629. Drakoen
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:35 (GMT)
Quoting atmoaggie:

I see your thinking, yet, I question how thoroughly any amount of hurricanes can cool the Caribbean. Yes, storms move heat, thereby removing it from a body of water, but how effectively. So effectively that they really can cool large swaths of the Caribbean where the waters are very warm and the mixed layer is very deep? I have doubts.

Could be that some other function was the limiting factor in that latitude band, as is usually the case.


I'd have to agree; I don't see how those storms could have cooled the Caribbean enough to prevent major hurricanes from forming.
Member Since: 28.10.2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
628. hydrus
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:33 (GMT)
Look at the moisture plume going from the S.W.Caribbean all the way across the Atlantic to Portugal. It is like a road of clouds.
Member Since: 27.09.2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19506
627. Seastep
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:28 (GMT)
Organic is marketing at it's finest.

Pay more for something that tastes worse?

Knock yourself out.
Member Since: 9.09.2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3412
626. NEFLWATCHING
7. toukokuuta 2010 klo 04:26 (GMT)
Can't stand it - on the peanut butter, smooth, or crunchy? Fat-free? Organic, or not? Seriously, does it ever make it to the floor if your dog is around?
Member Since: 16.09.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 192

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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.

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