BP Disaster to Enter Atlantic

SUBHEAD: Although much diluted, the BP oil disaster will do damage across Atlantic Ocean. [Editor's Note: The spread of oil is greatly accelerated at day 75 of this simulation when, on about July 4th, oil touches the main Atlantic Gulf Stream.] Image above: Still from video showing extent of oil spill after 132 days smearing the Wast Coast up to the Carolinas, before heading across Atlantic Ocean. See video below. By Betsy Mason on 3 June 2010 in Wired Magazine - (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/06/gulf-oil-could-spread-to-atlantic-coast) Oil from BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill could reach the Atlantic coast in the coming months, according to a new computer simulation. The model indicates that oil at the surface is likely to be picked up by a fast-moving stream of water in the Gulf known as the Loop Current, which feeds into the Gulf Stream current that carries water northward along the Atlantic coastline. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?’” Synte Peacock, who worked on the model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a press release today. “Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.” It is impossible to accurately predict precisely what will happen to the oil because it will depend on the ever-changing Loop Current and regional weather patterns. But the model, which is based on typical wind and current patterns for the area, can provide a range of possibilities. Video above: Video of oil spill projection. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE-1G_476nA). Six different scenarios — one is shown in the video above — were run through the computer simulation. In all of them, the oil eventually gets entrained into the Gulf Stream and reaches the Atlantic coast, traveling north at speeds up to 100 miles a day as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, before heading east into the open ocean. The main differences between the scenarios are in the timing of the oil’s movement. “We have been asked if and when remnants of the spill could reach the European coastlines,” team member Martin Visbeck of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany said in the press release. “Our assumption is that the enormous lateral mixing in the ocean together with the biological disintegration of the oil should reduce the pollution to levels below harmful concentrations. But we would like to have this backed up by numbers from some of the best ocean models.” The NCAR-led simulation was performed on supercomputers based at the New Mexico Computer Applications Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scientists caution that the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed and published, is not a forecast and is based on movement of a virtual dye that doesn’t resemble oil in some ways. The study also doesn’t take into account factors such as chemical breakdown and degradation of the oil or whether the oil will remain as a slick on the surface, coagulate or mix into the subsurface. The team is working on extending the model further into the future. See also: background on the study at the New York TimesDot Earth blog, in the full press release, and at the DOE. .

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