News and Events at the ESL

NY Times: Loop Current Destabilizes, Lowering Gulf Oil Spill's Threat to Fla.

Loop Current sheds an eddy, keeping oil in the central Gulf and out of the Gulf Stream

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Paul Voosen of the New York Times writes that the loop current's destabilization in mid-May will keep surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the central Gulf of Mexico rather than continuing on to the southern and eastern coast of Florida:

A large rotating cyclone of cold water is pushing into the southern body of the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current and now appears likely to destabilize or even sever the current and the oil it contains from its connection to Florida, scientists said today.

[I]magery today has shown that, while filaments of oil have escaped into the current, "the main pool of oil is remaining up there in the eddy" and not progressing south, said Mitch Roffer, an oceanographer at the scientific consulting firm ROFFS.


Typically, a forceful counterclockwise cyclone near southwest Florida "punches through the Loop Current," severing the flow from its connection to the Atlantic, said Nan Walker, the director of the Earth Scan Lab at Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and Environment.

"It looks like that kind of scenario is imminent," Walker said.


"At this stage, it's a watch and waiting game," Walker said.  
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Published: May 20, 2010

National Geographic: Gulf Oil Is in the Loop Current, Experts Say

Oil caught in eddy could soon merge with Loop Current

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Christine Dell'Amore of National Geographic writes of the increasing possibility that oil will reach the Loop Current and be carried southward.

"Images from the past few days show a "big, wide tongue" of oil reaching south from the main area of the spill, off the coast of Louisiana, said Nan Walker, director of Louisiana State University's Earth Scan Laboratory, in the School of the Coast and Environment."


"The oil has also reached the point where the eddy connects to the Loop Current, Walker said. That means the oil is traveling eastward alongside the main stream of the Loop Current, and it's likely that it will continue flowing with the current to Florida, Walker said."


Published: May 18, 2010

NY Times: The Oil and the Loop Current

The Loop Current carries oil towards the Florida Keys and the Atlantic Ocean

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An article written in the New York Times by John Collins Rudolf explores the influence of the Loop Current on oil trajectory. The piece examines the possibility of oil being carried by the Loop Current and making it to the Florida Keys and eventually the Atlantic Ocean.


Satellite images shed light on the trajectory of the oil and the current. The image above shows the oil spill as observed from space by the NASA Satellites Terra and Aqua on Monday. Using an array of sensors, these satellites detect the spectral reflection of the ocean, allowing a wide variety of observations on things like water temperature and surface features like the oil spill.

“It’s highly visible in our imagery,” said Nan Walker, an oceanographer with the Earth Scan Laboratory at Louisiana State University, where a separate analysis of the satellite images is being done. “It’s unmistakable. And oil spills, to my mind, aren’t usually that easy to track.” 

Published: May 18, 2010

NY Times: Unpredictable Current Is Wild Card in Gulf Disaster Scenarios

Will the loop current bring oil out of the Gulf?

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Paul Voosen writes an article in the New York Times about the impact the loop current will have on the fate of surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

An undersea conveyor belt to Florida is approaching the Gulf Coast oil spill, and should it stretch past its typical bounds, oil from the BP PLC accident, blobbing placidly off the Louisiana coast, could soon stream into the Florida Keys and up the United States' Eastern Seaboard.

Or the current could miss the spill entirely.

For the current to begin conveying the oil at any volume, it would still have to surge much farther north, which some computer models like Weisberg's are predicting. However, as Weisberg confesses, many of these models are deeply flawed, and the behavior of the Loop Current -- when it will decide to surge or instead break apart -- is prohibitively complex to forecast.

In other words, "no one has really been able to predict with much accuracy what the Loop Current will do," said Nan Walker, the director of the Earth Scan Laboratory at Louisiana State University, who is monitoring the oil and current with several sets of satellite data.

Published: May 05, 2010