Computer models project that oil from the BP disaster in the Gulf will hit loop currents by June, bringing oil up most of the Atlantic coast by the end of this month. The model, produced by the federally-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), suggests it will be a quick trip up the coast for oil once it reaches the current.
According to this model, oil will shoot up Florida all the way to Virginia before it heads out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (and international waters). Strands of oil look to make their way towards the Chesapeake Bay and other points north as time goes on.
Watch NCAR’s animation to see where oil could be later this month:
Note: this is not a forecast, but a model that shows the possibility of where oil could head. NCAR explains:
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.
What is possible, however, is to estimate a range of possible trajectories, based on the best understanding of how ocean currents transport material. The oil trajectory that actually occurs will depend critically both on the short-term evolution of the Loop Current, which feeds into the Gulf Stream, and on the state of the overlying atmosphere. The flow in the model represents the best estimate of how ocean currents are likely to respond under typical wind conditions.
The threat of BP’s oil disaster leaving the Gulf and affecting the entirety of the East Coast is a serious one indeed. Tip of the hat to Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones for finding this video.