May 21, 2010

Oil slick in the Loop, the disaster broadens

Part of the massive oil slick over the north-central Gulf of Mexico continues to be captured by a fast river of water, known as the Loop Current, which threatens to carry contaminants to faraway places.

Based on satellite imagery from early in the week, it appears a significant part of the oil slick is tearing away and being drawn well to the south in the east-central Gulf of Mexico this week

Officials have closed more of the Gulf to fishing as a result.

The speed of the current, which can reach several miles per hour, can carry part of the oil much more swiftly than waters over the slight, aimless drift of the north-central Gulf and light surface winds.

In addition to the concern now for oil showing up in great quantities in the Keys, the Florida West Coast, Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, part of the slick could be drawn into the Gulf Stream through the Florida Straits then perhaps northward to part of the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

At the same time, more and more of the slick is reaching the shoreline of Louisiana and seeping into bays, estuaries and tidal marshes, due to recent southeast winds over much of the past couple of weeks.

Winds will continue from the east and southeast over the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico into the weekend. Although at relatively light speeds, it will continue to funnel most contaminants into Louisiana.

While the Loop Current and the Gulf Stream are permanent currents, they change shape and orientation, depending upon the season as well because of fluctuating wind and temperature patterns.

The currents are simply part of the massive engine of the world's oceans, which transport, remove and, in turn, help to balance the heat budget of the earth.

Small eddies along the edges of the Loop Current and Gulf Stream, form, dissipate and meander making precise, long-term oil slick drift nearly impossible.

While placement of additional booms are encouraged for other shores along the Gulf of Mexico at this time, it should be understood that the booms are not fool-proof.

Vigorous wind and wave action in the vicinity of large storms, such as hurricanes or tropical storms, and small-scale coastal thunderstorms can render these measures inefficient.

Concerns are not limited to the surface and shorelines, as the larger the surface area covered by the slick means a larger area of the Gulf bottom may also be affected.

The developments over the past couple of days have shown that an oil slick can travel great distances before breaking up, thanks to fast-flowing currents.

Story by Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski


  1. Worst case scenario is now happening....
    All we need now is a few hurricanes to trounce our boom "protection" and wash all the oil inland.
    This is a massive disaster the likes of which we have never seen.

  2. AnonymousMay 25, 2010

    Exxon Valdez is nothing compared with this.Hope all responsables involved paid for all the consecuences economics and ecological.