Long term projection maps show that the oil from the Gulf of Mexico may be carried towards Europe in the next few months after soiling much of the American East Coast.
In a recently released animation by the National Center for Atmospheric Research scientists show a scenario of how the oil released in the current spill from the Deepwater Horizon accident may spread through the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico if it were in a typical configuration this summer.
The NCAR writes that: “This is not a forecast, but rather, it illustrates a likely dispersal pathway of the oil for roughly four months following the spill. It assumes oil spilling continuously from April 20 to June 20.” Coast Guard Commander, Adm, Thad W. Allen, said that the leaking oil well will not be completely contained until it is sealed through relief wells expected to be completed by August at the earliest. There will be oil in the Gulf of Mexico for months to come after that.
Synte Peacock, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who worked on this study said: “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?’ 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.”
All six scenarios released simulating varying oceanic conditions show similar overall pathways and movement of the oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill towards the Atlantic Ocean past the Florida Keys and up the East Coast of the United States as far north as North Carolina. The timing and scale of oil pollution in various areas may differ depending on how the Gulf current will move but it is likely to reach the Atlantic Coast of Florida within weeks.
After traveling up the US Coast the Gulf Stream turns east moving towards Europe taking some of the oil with it. It is unclear how deep or how diluted the oil will be and what the consequences for European coastlines are.
Martin Visbeck, a German researcher at the University of Kiel, said that they have been asked when and if the oil could reach Europe. Their assumptions are that lateral mixing with ocean waters along with biological disintegration of the oil should reduce pollution to below harmful conditions but he would like to have that backed up by numbers from some of the best ocean models.
Scientists cannot predict exactly when or how much of the oil slick will be transported towards Europe via the Gulf current because the actual amounts of oil spilled are not yet known and water currents are dependent on regional weather conditions that cannot be foreseen too far into the future.