17 May 2010

"Loop Current" May Spread Gulf Oil Spill Up East Coast

"Water enters the Gulf through the Yucatan Strait, circulates as the Loop Current, and exits through the Florida Strait eventually forming the Gulf Stream. Portions of the Loop Current often break away forming eddies or 'gyres' which affect regional current patterns. Smaller wind driven and tidal currents are created in nearshore environments. Drainage into the Gulf of Mexico is extensive, covering more than 60% of the United States, and includes outlets from 33 major river systems and 207 estuaries." (Texas Pelagics)
As engineers prepare to lower a giant containment dome over one of two remaining oil well leaks in the Gulf of Mexico, there is mounting concern that ocean currents will carry the oil slick around Florida, into the Atlantic ocean, and up the Eastern seaboard. A powerful eddy known as the "Loop Current" links to the Gulf Stream, which carries warm water up along the Atlantic Seaboard. The slick is still some 100 miles away from the Loop Current, but according to AccuWeather, "small local spirals, known as eddies, often break off of the Loop Current and could cause the slick to wander and spread just about anywhere." But a University of Miami professor says this is already happening.

"I think in the Keys within a week or so we should expect to see some early arrivals of oil," says Hans Graber, a professor at the University of Miami, who has been watching the progression of the oil based on satellite images. He tells the Tampa Tribune, "You see these spaghetti-like filaments. What we can't tell from space is whether this is a thick layer of molasses or is this like a thin sheen on the surface. If this goes on for weeks and perhaps months, then I think it's just a matter of time when the oil will show up all along South Florida. It's not a question of 'if.' "

Meanwhile, globules of oil are falling to the ocean floor, threatening every link in the ocean food chain and imperiling a string of precious coral reefs along the continental shelf of the Gulf. Louisiana State University oceanographer Robert S. Carney tells Nola.com that "hail-size gobs of oil with the consistency of tar or asphalt will roll around the bottom, while other bits will get trapped hundreds of feet below the surface and move with the current." And marine scientist Paul Montagna says, "The threat to the deep-sea habitat is already a done deal— it is happening now. If the oil settles on the bottom, it will kill the smaller organisms like the copepods and small worms. When we lose the forage, then you have an impact on the larger fish."

Today is a pivotal day for engineers struggling to stop the leak. The 100 ton containment dome has arrived at the spill, and BP's contractors are expected to lower it down today. The dome would work as a giant cup covering the well, funneling oil up to a drill ship. If it works, it would stop as much as 85% of the leak, which is currently gushing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day. But such a maneuver has never been tried at such a depth, and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry cautioned yesterday, "I know we are all hoping that this containment system will work, but I want to remind everybody that this containment system is a first of its kind deployed in 5,000 feet of water."

Engineers are worried about any number of complications that could arise, from the pipe clogging with "ice plugs" because of the low temperatures to the volatile cocktail of oil, gas and water exploding as it rises to the surface. "It's very dark down there ... and we will have lights on the (submersibles), and we know exactly where to put this and guide it into place," David Clarkson, BP's vice president for project execution, told reporters yesterday. When asked what the odds of success were, another BP executive replied, "This has never been done before. Typically you would put odds on something that has been done before."

To read the article in its entirety visit gothamist online HERE

No comments:


Airline tickets, hotel and car rental reservations

© 2007 - 2010 Akumal Direct Reservations. All Rights Reserved.
Journeyer, LLC Toll Free at 877-489-6600. Outside the US Dial 541-481-4005