June 5, 2010

Update: Gulf Oil Spill and Possible Effects Along the Carolina Coast

Here are two recent stories about the possible effects of the Gulf oil spill on the Carolina Coast:

Ocean currents likely to carry oil along Atlantic coast
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
June 03, 2010

BOULDER—A detailed computer modeling study released today indicates that oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico might soon extend along thousands of miles of the Atlantic coast and open ocean as early as this summer. The modeling results are captured in a series of dramatic animations produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and collaborators...

The computer simulations indicate that, once the oil in the uppermost ocean has become entrained in the Gulf of Mexico’s fast-moving Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast within weeks. It can then move north as far as about Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with the Gulf Stream, before turning east. Whether the oil will be a thin film on the surface or mostly subsurface due to mixing in the uppermost region of the ocean is not known.

Peacock and her colleagues stress that the simulations are not a forecast because it is impossible to accurately predict the precise location of the oil weeks or months from now. Instead, the simulations provide an envelope of possible scenarios for the oil dispersal. The timing and course of the oil slick will be affected by regional weather conditions and the ever-changing state of the Gulf’s Loop Current—neither of which can be predicted more than a few days in advance. The dilution of the oil relative to the source will also be impacted by details such as bacterial degradation, which are not included in the simulations...

Read the full article
here (includes video animation of oil slick movement)
PHOTO CREDIT: From the Article

Oil spill a threat to valuable sea life off the North Carolina coast

The Charlotte Observer
By Bruce Henderson
May 22, 2010

The ocean currents that could sweep Gulf of Mexico oil up the Atlantic coast might also become a contaminated highway for billions of young sea creatures, some of which will grow to maturity off the Carolinas.

Commercially valuable seafood species such as snappers and groupers sometimes spawn in the Gulf, their larvae riding currents to settle onto N.C. reefs. Coveted Atlantic bluefin tuna, which brought N.C. fishermen $1.4 million last year, are spawning now within miles of the oil leak...

The odds remain low that the spill will reach N.C. beaches. But oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well has reached the Gulf's Loop Current, which flows south around the tip of Florida and then northward up the Atlantic coast on the Gulf Stream...

Loggerhead turtles now nesting on Carolina beaches could hit oil in the Gulf Stream well offshore. The turtles, a threatened species, have to surface periodically to breathe as they swim and could become coated. So would sea birds and mammals such as dolphins.

"The first thing loggerhead hatchlings do is swim off to the Gulf Stream to hide in algae and feed," said Crowder, who studies endangered sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. "Even if the oil doesn't come onto the beach, they would be swimming into an oiled habitat."

The effect is impossible to predict, he added, because it's unknown how diluted the oil might be...

Read the full article here
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