Oil Slick Enters Loop Current

NOAA is confirming that part of the oil slick has entered the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current transports warm Caribbean water between the Yucatan and Cuba northward into the Gulf of Mexico, and then loops to the southeast towards the Florida Keys (eventually meeting up with the Gulf Stream). It’s also one of the fastest moving currents in the Atlantic Ocean.Yesterday, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco pointed out that oil could reach the Keys via the Loop within eight to ten days. In a statement released today, the Unified Command and NOAA minimized the possibility that this oil will ultimately hit the Florida Keys and also said that “any oil would be highly weathered and both the natural process of evaporation and the application of chemical dispersants would reduce the oil volume significantly.”We are very concerned with this statement. As mentioned in previous posts, dispersants do not make oil disappear, but instead cause it to form into smaller globules and sink into the water column. The movement of surface oil is largely influenced by winds, but the dispersed oil in the water column is primarily influenced by currents. Although the science on dispersants and dispersed oil is by no means clear, logically, it seems likely that dispersed oil below the surface would be heavily influenced by currents like the Loop Current and could be dragged toward the Keys. Image Courtesy of NASA

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