Oil enters the Loop Current and is headed to the Florida Keys

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:38 PM GMT on May 17, 2010

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Satellite imagery today from NASA's MODIS instrument confirms that a substantial tongue of oil has moved southeast from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and entered the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current. The Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and then along the west side of the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. Once oil gets into the Loop Current, the 1 - 2 mph speed of the current should allow the oil to travel the 500 miles to the Florida Keys in 10 - 20 days. Portions of the Loop Current flow at speed up to 4 mph, so the transport could be just 4 - 5 days. It now appears likely that the first Florida beaches to see oil from the spill will be in the Lower Florida Keys, not in the Panhandle.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the oil spill taken at 12:40 EDT Monday May 17, 2010. The location of the Loop Current is superimposed. Image credit: University of Wisconsin and NASA.

Why is oil getting into the Loop Current?
The winds over the oil spill location are offshore out of the northwest today, and offshore winds will continue intermittently through Wednesday, which should allow a substantial amount of oil to enter the Loop Current. The major reason oil is moving southwards is because of the instability of the currents in the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current is not a stable feature, and tends to surge northwards and southwards in a chaotic fashion, and in response to changes in the prevailing winds. Over the past week, chaotic behavior of the Loop Current and a clockwise-rotating eddy just to its north, just south of the oil spill location, have combined to bring a current of southward-moving surface water to the oil spill location. As strong on-shore winds from the southeast slackened this past weekend, oil has been drawn southward into the Loop Current. The latest NOAA trajectory forecasts failed to anticipate the movement of the oil into the Loop Current. The latest surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model show that oil could continue pouring into the Loop Current for most of the rest of the week. It is highly uncertain how diluted the oil might get on its voyage to northwestern Cuba and the Florida Keys this week, but the possibility for a major ecological disaster in the fragile Keys ecosystem cannot be ruled out. Southeast to east winds of 10 - 15 knots are expected to develop late this week and extend into early next week, which may be strong enough to impose a surface current that will shut off the flow of oil into the Loop Current by Friday or Saturday.


Figure 2. Forecast made at 8pm EDT Sunday May 16, 2010, of the Gulf of Mexico currents by NOAA's HYCOM model. A persistent southward flowing surface current is predicted to occur this week between the oil spill location (red dot) and the Loop Current. Image credit: NOAA.

Likely areas of impact
Based on a study of 194 floating probes released into the Northeast Gulf of Mexico during a 1-year study in the 1990s (Figure 3), the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay southwards to the Everglades is at minimal risk of receiving oil from surface currents. There is a "forbidden zone" off the southwest Florida coast where the shape of the coast, bottom configuration, and prevailing winds all act to create upwelling and surface currents that tend to take water away from the coast. This study implies that the greatest risk of land impacts by surface oil caught in the Loop Current is along the ocean side of the Florida Keys, and along the coast of Southeast Florida from Miami to West Palm Beach. Eddies breaking away from the Gulf Stream would also likely bring oil to northwest Cuba, the western Bahamas, and the U.S. East Coast as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, though at lesser concentrations. Southwest Florida cannot rest entirely, though--the "forbidden zone" is only true for surface waters, and there is onshore flow below the surface. Since recent ship measurements have detected substantial plumes of oil beneath the surface, southwest Florida might be at risk if one of these plumes gets entrained into the Loop Current. These subsurface plumes were also detected by current probes launched into the oil spill on May 8 by one of NOAA's hurricane hunter aircraft, according to one scientist I spoke to at last week's AMS hurricane conference. There are plans for the Hurricane Hunters to go out again tomorrow and drop more probes into the spill to attempt to get a better handle on where the oil is and where the currents are taking it.


Figure 3. Paths of 194 floating probes released into the yellow-outlined area in the northeast Gulf of Mexico between February 1996 and February 1997 as part of a study by the Mineral Management Service (MMS). The probes were all launched into waters with depth between 20 and 60 meters. Image credit: Yang, H., R.H. Weisberga, P.P. Niilerb, W. Sturgesc, and W. Johnson, 1999, Lagrangian circulation and forbidden zone on the West Florida Shelf, Continental Shelf Research Volume 19, Issue 9, July 1999, Pages 1221-1245 doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(99)00021-7

When will a Loop Current eddy break off?
Every 6 - 11 months, the looped portion of the Loop Current cuts off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water that then slowly drifts west-southwest towards Texas. When one of these rings breaks off at the peak of hurricane season, it provides a source of heat energy capable of providing fuel for rapid intensification of any hurricanes that might cross over. The Loop Current is not predicted to shed an ring over the next month, as predicted by the latest 1-month forecast from the U.S. Navy. However, the last eddy broke off in July of 2009, ten month ago, and it is unusual for the Loop Current to go more than eleven months without shedding an eddy. I expect we'll see the Loop Current shed an eddy in July or August, just in time to pose the maximum threat for hurricane season. According to an interesting February 2004 article published by offshore-engineer.com, reliable forecasts of these currents and eddies are not available yet. Keep in mind that surface currents are largely driven by winds, and wind forecasts are not reliable out more than about 10 days.

References
Yang, H., R.H. Weisberga, P.P. Niilerb, W. Sturgesc, and W. Johnson, 1999, Lagrangian circulation and forbidden zone on the West Florida Shelf, Continental Shelf Research Volume 19, Issue 9, July 1999, Pages 1221-1245 doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(99)00021-7.

Oil spill resources
NOAA trajectory forecasts
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
HYCOM ocean current forecasts from LSU

Jeff Masters

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919. xcool
yeah He's good at longer forecast..i give big A+
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
918. IKE
Quoting xcool:
TUESDAY 9 A.M.

MJO FORECAST CONTINUES TO SUPPORT IDEAS ON POSSIBLE EARLY SEASON DEVELOPMENT

http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/gfs.gif

The powerful upward motion forecast for day 10 indicates we could have a named storm on the charts for the Memorial Day weekend. Of course last year there is a righteous argument that the storm that hit Dauphin Island Friday night of Memorial Day weekend should have been named, and it's something I can't argue against. But in this case, it appears the ideas I have had on the possible early start to the season do have some merit, as the modeling is seeing the kind of pattern that would do it.

Our first hint is what is going on south of Asia with a cyclone to hit India later this week and another storm likely to form off the eastern tip of Africa, but indicative of the active monsoonal circulation that means a stronger African wave train this year.

In the meantime, mayhem tomorrow morning over southeastern New England may be a problem as fully leaved trees with 2-4 inches of wind driven rain may come down on Nantucket and the Cape. Let's not put the cart before the (sea) horse as far as influences go.

Wow, what a classic Memorial Day week is shaping up, a heat wave develops and the tropics may come to life.
by joe


hi all.


I like to read what he says. He thinks longer range and is usually correct.

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Oil spill to shut down 19 percent of Gulf fishing

by The Associated Press

wwltv.com

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 11:36 AM


See all 6 photos »

NEW ORLEANS -- Federal officials say they're expanding the area of the Gulf of Mexico where fishing is shut down because of a massive oil spill.

They had already shut down fishing from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle soon after an offshore oil rig exploded and sank last month. About 7 percent of federal waters were affected.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday that it's expanding the closed area, though it won't say exactly where until later in the day. Nearly 46,000 square miles, or about 19 percent of federal waters, will be shut under the expanded ban.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco of NOAA says the government will be testing fish that is caught to make sure it's safe.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261


Salazar: Gov't failed to assure drilling safety

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar caught sharp criticism from lawmakers Tuesday over the government's failures in overseeing offshore oil drilling, and he acknowledged his department had been lax in holding industry accountable.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
Levi and 456. Thanks for the corrections, I am here to learn and provide input when I feel I think I have a handle on something.

Since I haven't posted in awhile here is a bit about me. Some of you may remember me, I have been posting here in the tropical season since 2006. I am a Senior in High School and am attending Millersville University in PA for Meteorology in August. I am a frequent poster on EasternUSWX and attending a conference on June 6th in Baltimore with Bill Read as a guest speaker. (very excited). And I recently shelled out a good amount of dough (for me at least) for a GR2AE copy, so you will be seeing those images as things come ashore, and I am also amateur photographer.
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914. xcool
David Bernard's Blog .Early Tropical Development?.I certainly would not be surprised if we see our first storm around the end of May or first week of June. One general predictor that can help foresee positive development potential in the Atlantic is the Madden-Julian Oscillation. It works better in years like this with neutral or La Nina conditions. Not so much like last year with a moderate El Nino. At any rate, the image below is the 15 day forecast. The MJO shows areas of upward motion (rising air). These areas are more favorable for thunderstorms and hence better conditions for low pressure or storms to form.

The four columns read from top to bottom:
Analysis
5 Day forecast
10 Day forecast
15 Day forecast

The 10 day forecast shows very strong upward motion over the Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic. This is around Memorial Day Weekend.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
what I see happening in about 3/4 days thru the of the end month is a trough split occuring just NE of the bahamas,then as closed ULL retrograding west towards FL,then when/if it gets into the GOM by months end we could have a STS or TS,IMO....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
Quoting Jeff9641:


I only way this caribbean feature will have a chance is if it stays in the Caribbean. The Atlantic feature will be the on to watch as this feature should be sub tropical and any feature around this ULL and surface low tandom will sheared to death. I give a caribbean storm a 10 percent chance of forming over the next week.


Jeff I'm not sure if anyone believes it will threaten the US, they just think it has a better chance to develop than the ATL disturbance. It will have a decent 3-4 day window before it moves too far north.
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911. xcool
TUESDAY 9 A.M.

MJO FORECAST CONTINUES TO SUPPORT IDEAS ON POSSIBLE EARLY SEASON DEVELOPMENT

http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/gfs.gif

The powerful upward motion forecast for day 10 indicates we could have a named storm on the charts for the Memorial Day weekend. Of course last year there is a righteous argument that the storm that hit Dauphin Island Friday night of Memorial Day weekend should have been named, and it's something I can't argue against. But in this case, it appears the ideas I have had on the possible early start to the season do have some merit, as the modeling is seeing the kind of pattern that would do it.

Our first hint is what is going on south of Asia with a cyclone to hit India later this week and another storm likely to form off the eastern tip of Africa, but indicative of the active monsoonal circulation that means a stronger African wave train this year.

In the meantime, mayhem tomorrow morning over southeastern New England may be a problem as fully leaved trees with 2-4 inches of wind driven rain may come down on Nantucket and the Cape. Let's not put the cart before the (sea) horse as far as influences go.

Wow, what a classic Memorial Day week is shaping up, a heat wave develops and the tropics may come to life.
by joe


hi all.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting stormhank:
Does anyone have a link to an animated eastern atlantic /africa satellite site? Thanks so much


LINK
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Does anyone have a link to an animated eastern atlantic /africa satellite site? Thanks so much
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Quoting Jeff9641:


This will happen due to an ULL moving west toward Florida. This effect will stall the caribbean feature for about 2 to 3 days from moving north.


Yes as the GFS shows, but then it slowly creeps it north towards death.
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indeed..
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TexasGulf--

I live over in Orange and we haven't had any significant rain since March until Saturday. My garden is green and growing thanks to the irrigation system.
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Quoting weathersp:
Whats interesting to me is that the SW ATL system is not totally subtropical. Yes, it likely will be shallow but the models peg it as a warm cored symmetric system. The ridge over the CONUS is providing an amazing opportunity for this time of year for a wave to really sit in a warm unseasonable environment for this time of year. While shear is still a question I think it bears watching than most give it credit for.
<>BR>On the other hand the SW Caribbean does have a more "rich and stable" environment in almost every way but I think its going to be harder for a spin to come out of it, this is obviously caused by the location of the system in respect to the equator (coriolis effect). So do I expect a Blob, yes. An actual closed or even half closed low? I think that is more up in the air(no pun intended).


There are a few things wrong with this:

First, lower than normal pressures, the MJO and warm ssts is more than unstable

Second, the Coriolis parameter is never a problem in the SW Caribbean, afterall, this is a vorticity riched environment.
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Quoting weathersp:
Whats interesting to me is that the SW ATL system is not totally subtropical. Yes, it likely will be shallow but the models peg it as a warm cored symmetric system. The ridge over the CONUS is providing an amazing opportunity for this time of year for a wave to really sit in a warm unseasonable environment for this time of year. While shear is still a question I think it bears watching than most give it credit for.

On the other hand the SW Caribbean does have a more "rich and stable" environment in almost every way but I think its going to be harder for a spin to come out of it, this is obviously caused by the location of the system in respect to the equator (coriolis effect). So do I expect a Blob, yes. An actual closed or even half closed low? I think that is more up in the air (no pun intended).


Subtropical systems do not have to be asymmetrical. They can be symmetrical too, and often the ones that actually get named do have a certain degree of symmetry. It's something they need to have to develop barotropically.

The phase diagram shows it being symmetrical warm-core but when you go to the vertical profile it shows it being shallow, which still puts it as subtropical.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
2008 is my favored analog for 2010,..unfortunately.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
It dont matta to me where dey come from..nor if they named,or not..

If they Linger like it did Memorial Weekend last year in Daytona,..misery soon follows.

But It mattered to the flooded homes and folks affected.

..

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
Quoting Weather456:


Very good question.....that hybrid low will be north of the feature, wedge between two high pressure centers over the Southern United States and the subtropical Atlantic.

This would effectively weaken the steering flow to the south over the Caribbean, leaving the feature to gradually pull north after it forms.

GFS 1000-500 mean winds used as a proxy for steering of a shallow-mid level feature'

The center of this four point pattern is called a col


Thanks 456. So it looks like it will move into the Atlantic. I just hope it doesn't get into the gulf.
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Whats interesting to me is that the SW ATL system is not totally subtropical. Yes, it likely will be shallow but the models peg it as a warm cored symmetric system. The ridge over the CONUS is providing an amazing opportunity for this time of year for a wave to really sit in a warm unseasonable environment for this time of year. While shear is still a question I think it bears watching than most give it credit for.

On the other hand the SW Caribbean does have a more "rich and stable" environment in almost every way but I think its going to be harder for a spin to come out of it, this is obviously caused by the location of the system in respect to the equator (coriolis effect). So do I expect a Blob, yes. An actual closed or even half closed low? I think that is more up in the air (no pun intended).
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Quoting SouthDadeFish:
If the Carib feature moves too far north it will get massacred.


That is what the 12Z GFS shows.
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If the Carib feature moves too far north it will get massacred.
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Someone mentioned that 2009 had a couple of invests and a TD before June 1. Don't really compare 2010 to that year because all those invests and TD did not had purely tropical origins. if you guys remember 90L of last May formed from this large non tropical disturbance, so did TD 1 and 92L formed near the Azores.

If you want compare what the GFS and others are showing, try 2008's Arthur. If this forms in the Caribbean it would further reinforce evidence of the active season to come.
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Quoting Levi32:


The Caribbean system could just as easily rob the SW Atlantic low of the chance to organize. The Caribbean low will have the most energy available and therefore will have the advantage. It will also likely be more concentrated than the low to the north. Whether shear will be an issue or not remains to be seen.


I believe one way or another, INVEST 90L will pop into play next week whether it be the SW feature or the Carribean feature. If shear lifts north as some models forecast it to, then the Carribean low has a fair chance. There is already a very low pocket of shear 5-10 knots where the SW feature may form.
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Quoting wxmobilejim:

If this forms what is the steering looking like? Where would it go?


Very good question.....that hybrid low will be north of the feature, wedge between two high pressure centers over the Southern United States and the subtropical Atlantic.

This would effectively weaken the steering flow to the south over the Caribbean, leaving the feature to gradually pull north after it forms.

GFS 1000-500 mean winds used as a proxy for steering of a shallow-mid level feature'

The center of this four point pattern is called a col

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Quoting Jeff9641:


I've been saying this for the last couple of days that the Atlantic feature is the one to watch but it's not worth me arguing with some people on here. I'm just going to let this scenario play out because what's going to happen is that a low near Bermuda and a ULL will team up and this whole feature will move toward the Florida coast. Could be a subtropical storm in the making later this weekend turning warm core the closer it gets to the Florida coast. Everyone on here except REEDZONE is focusing on the Caribbean but nothing major will materialize there due to the feature in the Atlantic and it's attended shear around this system.


The Caribbean system could just as easily rob the SW Atlantic low of the chance to organize. The Caribbean low will have the most energy available and therefore will have the advantage. It will also likely be more concentrated than the low to the north. Whether shear will be an issue or not remains to be seen.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
NEXSAT GOM OIL SPILL BONUS VIEW


CONUS SECTORS WITH OIL SPILL HIGHLIGHTED BOX
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
Post 882 that has to be the video of the year.Experts do not have much of a track or trust record anymore.
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Quoting Weather456:


Per my May outlook



Note: arrows around the subtropical ridge turn the wrong way.



Nice call.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
879. Fox has reporters on the southern beaches...
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Dr. James Hansimian's

Hurricane Forecast Center

Link
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
Quoting Levi32:


That upper ridge seems to expand to the north with time too, eventually encompassing most of the Caribbean.


Per my May outlook



Note: arrows around the subtropical ridge turn the wrong way.

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I was not on this blog in 2005, and I am just curious... when katrina hit, it seemed like days before the media began to broadcast the true devastation of Katrina. Did people on here get to heaqr about it right away? Cause now I notice the media still hasnt caught on much about the oil blob and the Gulf loop.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
Climo Likes it out there IKe..,well 2009 did.
456 is peeping at it.
It could be the sweet spot when the MJO waddles thru.



Season's first tropical depression forms

Posted by: JeffMasters, 10:43 AM CDT on May 28, 2009


Nature is jumping the gun a bit this year, with the season's first tropical depression forming four days before the official start to hurricane season. The area of disturbed weather (91L) that we've been watching, about 250 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, has developed enough heavy thunderstorm activity and spin to be classified as a tropical depression. QuikSCAT imagery from last night revealed a closed surface circulation, but top winds of only 20 - 25 mph. Satellite estimates (using a cloud pattern recognition method called the "Dvorak" technique) were saying this was a tropical depression this morning, though, so the NHC elected to upgrade the system.

The disturbance is over the relatively warm waters of the Gulf Stream (25C) and has wind shear of 5 - 10 knots over it, and these conditions are marginally favorable for some slow development to occur until Friday, when the system will likely move over waters too cold to support intensification. TD One is not a threat to any land areas. I give the storm a 60% chance of becoming Tropical Storm Ana.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
Quoting wxmobilejim:

If this forms what is the steering looking like? Where would it go?


north and northeast towards Cuba and Haiti most likely
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876. IKE
12Z NOGAPS...
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Quoting Weather456:
By next Wednesday, the 12Z GFS ensembles of TD 1


If this forms what is the steering looking like? Where would it go?
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Quoting Weather456:
The upper environment a little more "comfortable" over the SW Caribbean



That upper ridge seems to expand to the north with time too, eventually encompassing most of the Caribbean.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
I have one quick question about the oil spill. could it effect the Tampa bay area?
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872. IKE
88 degrees outside. Warm day.
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ESL Wavcis LAb from LSU has put together a sweet animated link on the WAVCIS page for the Oil Minded.

Also, you can run the GOM Loop Current 120 Hour Model as well on the lower left here.

WAVCIS


ESL by LSU Our Latest Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Imagery The Oil Spill's Projected Trajectory (GOHSEP)

Truecolor image of Oil Spill, May 17, 2010

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128261
CMC now shifts focus to the Atlantic

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The upper environment a little more "comfortable" over the SW Caribbean

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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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