Gulf oil spill: NOAA confirms oil sheen is in Loop Current


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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its latest observations indicated that a small portion of the Gulf of Mexico oil slick has reached the Loop Current in the form of light to very light sheens. NOAA said in a news release:

In the time it would take for oil to travel to the vicinity of the Florida Straits, any oil would be highly weathered and both the natural process of evaporation and the application of chemical dispersants would reduce the oil volume significantly. However, the oil may get caught in a clockwise eddy in the middle of the gulf, and not be carried to the Florida Straits at all.

Oil entrained in the Loop Current would require persistent onshore winds or an eddy for it to reach the Florida shoreline. If this were to occur, the weathered and diluted oil would likely appear in isolated locations in the form of tar balls.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that tar balls found in the Florida Keys did not originate from the BP well blowout.

Graphic: Latest projection of oil spill spread shows a tendril close to the Loop Current. Credit: NOAA

The Loop Current is an area of warm water that comes up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico. It generally curves east across the gulf and then flows south parallel to the western Florida coast. Between Florida and Cuba, it becomes the Florida Current and moves through the Florida Straits, where it joins the Gulf Stream as it travels up the Atlantic coast.

-- Geoff Mohan

Graphic: Loop current and approximate area of oil spill. Credit: Los Angeles Times