Is the Gulf Oil Spill Headed for Florida & North Carolina?

By Andrew Moseman | May 4, 2010 9:44 am

May3OilThe weather changed yesterday and kept the Gulf of Mexico oil spill off the Louisiana coast for at least another day. But while we previously reported on the damage that oil could do if it makes landfall, there could also be disastrous consequences if the oil heads too far in the other direction, out to sea.

Not far south of the oil slick’s present location lies the Gulf loop current, which heads north from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, makes a sharp turn in the middle of the Gulf and then heads for the tip of Florida. Eventually, water caught in the current can get pushed around to Florida and then connect to the Gulf Stream current.

Oceanographer George Maul worries that the current could push the oil slick right through the Florida Keys and its 6,000 coral reefs.

“I looked at some recent satellite imagery and it looks like some of the oil may be shifted to the south,” said Maul, a professor at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla. “If it gets entrained in the loop, it could spread throughout much of the Atlantic” [Discovery News].

If that happens, the oil could spread as far as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Discovery News reports.

Meanwhile, news about the efforts to stop the spill hasn’t improved. Yesterday BP announced it had begun to drill a relief well, one of the last available options to stop the leak created when the company’s leased oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded and sank. The idea is that the new well would intercept the one Deepwater Horizon had tapped and plug it to stop the flow of oil, but it won’t be completed for at least 60 to 90 days.

Investigators also must figure out what went wrong with the blowout preventer (BOP), which should have prevented this entire incident. The device is intended to shut off the flow of oil if an out-of-control surge begins to ascend the pipe, but both its automatic and manual switches failed this time.

Deepwater Horizon is the second such accident in less than a year. Just eight months ago, the BOP failed on a deep-water well in the Timor Sea, north-west of Australia. After five attempts and 10 weeks a relief well was drilled and the flow – much smaller than Deepwater Horizon – was stemmed [New Scientist].

The Gulf oil spill has had political reverberations throughout the country, too. President Obama backed off a plan to allow more offshore drilling after the extent of the spill became clear, and now California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done the same. Previously, Schwarzenegger proposed new drilling off the California coast to raise the money needed to save state parks from California’s budget crisis. But after seen the pictures of oil spreading over miles and miles of ocean, the governor changed his mind.

“It will not happen here in California,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference. “If I have a choice between the $100 million and what I see in the Gulf of Mexico, I’d rather just figure out how to make up for that $100 million” [San Jose Mercury News].

Our Previous Gulf Oil Spill Stories:
80beats: Gulf Oil Spill: Fisheries Closed; Louisiana Wetlands Now in Jeopardy
80beats: Gulf Oil Spill Reaches U.S. Coast; New Orleans Reeks of “Pungent Fuel Smell”
80beats: Uh-Oh: Gulf Oil Spill May Be 5 Times Worse Than Previously Thought
80beats: Coast Guard’s New Plan To Contain Gulf Oil Spill: Light It on Fire
80beats: Sunken Oil Rig Now Leaking Crude; Robots Head to the Rescue
80beats: Ships Race To Contain the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Image: NASA

  • Karmen

    I Need Facts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Elden

    Ill be cleaning this up if it reaches the land. I want to know when this is most likely to hit land. not that i want it to i just need to know when ill be leaving.



  • Big Hairy Ape

    The count so far is about 3 million gallons of oil has been pumped into the Gulf of Mexico. So just the cost of the oil wasted is about $6,000,000. The cost to our coastlines, our economy, our national security rises every day this continues. So including the average cost estimates of the clean up rapidly approaching 4 billion dollars – that means the tally is 14 eSolar type plants could be built and provide power to 56,000 homes …

  • Brittny Allder

    Definetly, the nightmare of the Florida oil desaster is actually a majour problem. Your post is worthwhile contribution to this bloody oil desaster. We have to look at it in depth. In fact I do not agree with some small points in general Im fully on your way. I am looking forward to upcoming updates, which probably brings hope and terminates the oil problem.

  • George Birch

    In order to push his no off shore drilling policy, Obama will let the oil continue to flow until the entire coast is destroyed, then he will blame hallaburton . I fear for the future of our country.

  • Semmas

    Well, maybe if they weren’t forced to drill 300 miles out to sea, but rather closer to shore, it would be easier to clean up a mess like this!

  • Dan

    “President Obama backed off a plan to allow more offshore drilling after the extent of the spill became clear”

    BP probably won the contract

  • Sravya Sarin

    After reading this particular article I have chosen to sign up to your rss feed. I anticipate your forthcoming blogposts will certainly be just as beneficial.


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