The Gulf Stream Is Only The Beginning

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There have been many predictions that the oil leak from British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon catastophic oil well blowout will enter the Gulf Stream since the well is at the end of one branch of the stream.

There hasn’t been much talk so far about what happens if it does get into the Gulf Stream.

Here’s a visual of where it can go from there…

Click image to view full size

British Petroleum’s (BP’s) Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling site is near a circulating current in the Gulf of Mexico called the Loop Current.

There are strong indications from scientific observations and tracking of the oil leak (both the surface slick and oil rising from the seabed) from the oil well blowout will enter the Gulf Stream in the next few days via the Loop Current.

How and why this can happen is described in a short video produced by The University of South Florida College of Marine Science Ocean Circulation Group (OCG/CMS/USF) showing the affecting Gulf currents and the trajectory of the oil (hat tip to Taoskier):

Lucy Campbell at the legal news site lawyersandsettlements.com today describes the potential (likely) problem this way:

New Orleans, LA: As the impact of the BP oil spill continues to grow, and oil continues to ooze unimpeded from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, experts are worried that the Loop Current, which travels north into the Gulf, could pick up the slick and carry it toward Florida, through the keys, around the Florida panhandle and up the eastern seaboard.



The Loop Current begins in the Caribbean and travels clockwise up to the mighty Gulf Stream
, which runs along the eastern seaboard of the US and into Canada. Currently the uncapped wellhead is sitting roughly 5,000 feet underwater and is spewing 210,000 gallons, or 794,937 liters, of crude oil into the Gulf every day. But if this oil gets picked up by the Loop, the scope of the disaster could broaden, affecting the eastern seaboard as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

“If oil is swept up into the Loop Current-which moves at about 3.3 to 6.5 feet (one to two meters) a second-there’s essentially no way to stop it,” Tony Sturges, professor emeritus in oceanography at Florida State University, told National Geographic. “Once [oil] gets into the loop current, you can bet the farm it will go around to the south” of the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf Stream.” Florida should be bracing for the worst, he added. The noxious oil could get pulled into estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways, affecting nurseries for valuable fisheries.



If BP is able to “cap” the leak on the seabed soon this might not present as much of a problem as it can if the leak continues, but can rapidly become a much worse nightmare if the well head disintegrates thus increasing the flow of oil from the undersea reservoir, and this is something that has never been attempted before, so the engineers and BP employees on site are basically operating on guesswork and hope.

As Sean Reilly reported earlier today in Alabama Local News:

“The top executive of BP PLC strongly defended his company’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill today, but acknowledged that he cannot say how long it will take to stop the leaking well some 90 miles south of Dauphin Island.

‘That’s the question that no can answer with any finality,’ Tony Hayward said in a meeting this afternoon with reporters from Gulf Coast newspapers and the Associated Press.”

Hayward would know of course, if anyone would, it being his company’s well.

Last Friday April 30, Alabama Local News also reported that:

“A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster in the Gulf makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf.

“The following is not public,” reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Emergency Response document dated April 28. “Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought.”

Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night. Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, “I’m letting the document you have speak for itself.”

Right now the well is leaking approximately 210,000 gallons of oil per day from the seabed into the Gulf .

An order of magnitude increase in release volume, if the wellhead disintegrates, will be in the neighborhood of… well, I’ll leave that calculation to you.

Suffice to say that it will be more oil than anyone will be comfortable with leaking into the Gulf and being sucked into the Gulf Stream by the Loop Current. Continuously, and possibly never to stop until the undersea reservoir empties.

I mentioned at the top of this diary that so far there hasn’t been much talk so far about what happens if that oil does get into the Gulf Stream.

But the Gulf Stream is only the beginning, and does not exist or operate in isolation from global ocean currents.

Where would the Gulf Stream carry an enormous and continuous oil leak to, apart from the east coast of Florida and the Eastern Seaboard?

I’ll stop here now, and let you contemplate that image from The New England Aquarium up at the top on your own…

33 comments

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    • Edger on May 4, 2010 at 4:58 am
      Author

    at Wild Wild Left.

  1. Scientist: Oil spill could hit Loop Current within 24 hours

    Weisberg and Shay agree that once the oil enters the Loop Current, it likely will end up in the Keys and continue east into the Gulf Stream.

    Shay says the oil could affect Florida’s beaches, coral reefs, fisheries and ecosystem within a week.

    He described the Loop Current as similar to a “conveyor belt,” sweeping around the Gulf, through the Keys and right up the East Coast.

    Shay says he cannot think of any scenario where the oil doesn’t eventually reach the Florida Keys.

    Weisberg’s concerns also stretch to the Florida Keys, and the East Coast, from Miami all the way to Cape Hatteras, N.C.

    That’s because he fears oil from the spill will get caught up in strong currents that run from near the site of the spill, be propelled immediately southward to the Florida Straits and then curl around the tip of Florida before running up the East Coast.

    “It’s very likely that at some point oil will be entrained in the Loop Current,” Weisberg said. “Once entrainment happens, the speed of the Loop Current could go from that point to the Dry Tortugas in a week, to Cape Hatteras in another two weeks.

    “Getting into the Loop Current may take some time,” he said. “But once in the Loop Current, the oil will move rather quickly.”

    Weisberg joined U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on a conference call this afternoon with reporters to discuss the oil spill and its potential threat to Florida.

    “This is not good news for Florida,” Castor said of Weisberg’s projections, which are being used by federal agencies fighting the spill. “It would just be horrendous.”

  2. but it seems to me they have become so enmeshed in capitalism and ‘progress’ so focused on shattered truths that they do not seem to realize that ecosystems are global and the simple truths about cause and effects.. Every bodies talking about the loss of business and the need for gas economically and the damage done to the gulfs economy. It’s absurd as the earth is what sustains life not ‘economies’ that are based on profit.  

    What is so hard to understand about how the earth functions as a whole. Why would drilling holes this deep to extract oil and gas not have en effect on the entire over stressed system? We will not all die if we stop using oil, we would actually have a more liveable world. We have created a monstrous hellish culture and we seem unable to stop thinking that is the only way we can live.    

    Like Cassiadorious said people see to unable to even imagine any other alternative to raping the earth for fucking useless money and power. There is no reason other then insane greed that our society can not develop innovative ways to produce food energy and technology that is sustainable. I believe that it would take decentralizing the global nightmare of multinationals. It would take a societal change that is coming anyway as this order is self destructing.

    The corporations and the whores of technology have bamboozled people into thinking that the world would not function without their false economics and materialism. This oil is not just effecting the gulf coast it is another blow to the ecosystems that we think is ours to pillage for profit and stuff. How insane not to use our science and technology to create stuff we need out of the sustainable bounty the earth itself produces. Why ship oil and plastic around the world why kill and set our home on fire? Are we so stupid that we cannot rethink and reorganize and decentralize our means of survival. The earth could care less about our ‘economy’ or our so called technological progress.                

  3. from every nuke plant and lab in the world + nuclear testing + sunken nuclear subs, lost bombs, and all sorts of other small leaks— it ends up everywhere, causing problems everywhere, that will be impossible to directly attribute to anything specific.

    Cancer rates go up?

    Fishes die?

    Causation?

    This, that, or the next thing.  

  4. good for purposes of survival.  

    • Edger on May 5, 2010 at 2:10 am
      Author

    Am I going down in history as the guy with all the depressing news? 😉

  5. of the well cap.

    wellcap/

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