May 18, 2010

Oil slick feared to be near Loop Current

While quiet weather will aid ongoing efforts to contain and clean-up the massive oil slick in the north-central Gulf of Mexico this week, there is growing concern that some of the oil may be getting caught up in the Loop Current.

Weather Conditions this Week

Isolated thunderstorms could develop along a stalled frontal boundary over the central Gulf Coast through Wednesday.

Otherwise, the weather will remain fairly quiet across the north-central Gulf of Mexico through the rest of the week, aiding containment and clean-up efforts.

Over the next few days, winds in the vicinity of the oil slick will stay fairly light out of the south-southeast.

The light winds will lend to relatively calm seas with wave heights averaging 1 to 2 feet.

Waves were generally 1 to 2 feet in the vicinity of the oil slick Monday morning.

Waves are expected to average at this mark or less through Thursday, thanks to light and variable winds much of the time.

Oil Slick Close to Loop Current

The Coast Guard reported Monday that 20 tar balls were found along the shore of the Zachary Taylor State Park in the Florida Keys, according to The Associated Press.

Officials are still determining if the tar was from the oil spill, but the discovery has led some to fear that the oil spill has been caught in the Loop Current, a strong flow of water that travels around the Florida Peninsula and up the East Coast.

Over the weekend, a large strand of the oil slick got close enough to a large, warm current over the east-central Gulf of Mexico to be grabbed and dragged southward.

The "Loop Current" could carry part of the slick farther and faster in a matter of days, compared to what took weeks in local, weaker currents.This current and smaller swirls of water, called "eddies" could carry fragments of the slick just about anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico in the weeks and months ahead.

It is similar what happens when adding creamer to a swirling cup of coffee. However, instead of the oil filling up the entire Gulf, "gobs and streams" of the oil could be carried great distances.

Gina Cherundolo contributed to the content of this story.

By Meterologists Alex Sosnowski and Heather Buchman

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