Experts: Gulf oil unlikely to reach East Coast - ‘We’re mostly out of the woods’ Baton Rouge, LA
Where the heck is the oil???
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Researchers who initially projected that oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill would threaten the East Coast now believe there’s little chance it will.
Despite the months of oil gushing from a blown-out undersea BP well off the coast of Louisiana, there’s no sign that any of it has migrated into the Loop Current that could carry the spill around Florida and into the Atlantic. Experts said Thursday that a random current has helped contain the oil around the site where the rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, triggering the spill.
“Without that, we probably would be in trouble, said North Carolina State University associate professor Roy He, an expert on marine sciences and coastal circulation.
A National Center for Atmospheric Research model released at the beginning of June projected that parts of the oil spill could come up the East Coast in July and August, just a few months after the April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers. The Loop Current typically carries water through the Gulf, around Florida and into the Gulf Stream, which quickly pushes water up to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Adding to the initial concern of researchers were signs of a strong Loop Current that was reaching into the northern Gulf. But by mid-June it had lost power due to an opposing current - known as an eddy - that broke off and continues to control water flow in the region.
Synte Peacock, a staff scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said it’s not clear when that eddy will move off to the West as they normally do. The group’s new models show oil emerging from the Gulf months later than initially projected.
Peacock said the oil is breaking up so fast that whatever remainders do reach the Atlantic coast will likely not be visible, will be heavily weathered and widely diluted.
Larry Cahoon, a professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said he’s pleased to see that there’s little signs of oil on the surface of the Gulf. He had initially expected tar balls to come in a weathered form and now says he’d be surprised if the Atlantic seaboard sees even that.
“The only wild card in there is the oil that’s underwater,” Cahoon said. But he said researchers off the coast of Florida have found little sign of oil anywhere near that state’s tip, where the Gulf Stream begins to move water like a river up the East Coast.
“I think we’re mostly out of the woods,” he said.