Oil enters Loop Current, headed for the Bahamas
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
OIL from the BP Deep Horizon spill has now entered the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, according to reports by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the international media.
This latest development increases the likelihood of the oil reaching the Bahamas.
Early yesterday, local authorities said the most up-to-date information they had as to the location of the oil was Sunday data that placed the oil's location three miles away from the loop current.
Michael Stubbs, chief climatological officer at the Meteorological Department, said it was "very likely" the oil would end up in the loop current. At such a time, the risk of the Bahamas being directly impacted would increase significantly.
"Whatever is deposited in the loop current will travel through the loop current no matter what. Once it gets into the loop current we can't duck it. If you have no wind, no weather systems and it is calm, the loop current will still facilitate the movement of material into the vicinity of our islands," said Mr Stubbs.
With hurricane season fast approaching on June 1, local responders are furthered concerned about the impending environmental disaster. Given the high number of storms that have been predicted this season, there is "great concern" about the added challenges to possible containment efforts.
Historical records show that early in the season cyclones tend to originate in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, North of the Bahamas, where the source of the spill is located, according to Mr Stubbs. "The area in the gulf is fertile ground."
Several issues are of concern. A hurricane or other severe weather system would likely hamper efforts in the gulf to contain and clean up the oil. It could also generate strong waves or wind that would drive surface oil, oil residue or particles, and chemical disspersants into the area of the north-western Bahamas.
"From our knowledge, this is the first major one so close to home. It is going to be with us for a great length of time. It has overwhelmed the immediate resources, so obviously it leads one to wonder how and when we will be able to control it," said Mr Stubbs.
The loop current is an oceanic "conveyor belt", travelling from the Western tip of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea, north along the Yucatán Channel, according Mr Stubbs. It makes a clockwise turn towards the Florida Keys, and then travels eastward between the Bahamas Islands and the Florida peninsula. It then moves northward along the eastern coastline of Florida until it joins the gulf stream, which carries it further north into the North Atlantic ocean towards Europe.
May 21, 2010