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New Orleans has been destroyed under the wrath of Hurricane Kristol, the latest in a series of super hurricanes that have decimated the Gulf of Mexico region this summer. With sustained winds over 300km per hour, Kristol landed over Gulfport, Mississippi, wiping out thousands of square kilometres of delta and marshland, spreading storm surges and flood waters well into the interior of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Along with the waters came the toxic sludge that continues to spew from the BP oil well, leaving behind a stinking morass of death and destruction. Very few reports are coming from the area as damage is widespread and severe, and scarce resources are now attempting to mobilize to rescue the few stranded citizens that have survived.

Meteorologists from NASA and the NOAA Weather Service are now watching Hurricane Leo as it approaches the oily waters of the Gulf Stream, heading in the general direction of Norfolk, Virginia. All residents of the area are being asked to evacuate in light of the rapid increase in intensity that Kristol demonstrated as it blew over the Gulf waters.

Okay it is just a hyped up super-scenario...

...but perhaps a little bit of science can go a long way. I tried an experiment in science today. Students had three cups, one with tap water, another with tap water and oil (two types were tried, cooking and machine oil) , and the third with tap water, oil, and detergent (imitating the dispersant). These cups were placed in the sun with temperature measurements being made every half hour. In every case, the cup with the tap water and oil had a one to two degree (Celsius) higher difference than the tap water alone. The mixture with detergent showed an increase as well.

All twenty tests provided the same results. Knowing that the warm waters of the Gulf provide significant moisture and heat energy for the strength of a hurricane passing over it, the above scenario, while probably overstated, may be within the range of probability. If all those little cups of water can absorb that much extra heat energy, certainly the Gulf oil blow out could absorb an enormous amount more. I really do not like conjecture or this kind or scary scenarios, but, hey, it already is a scary scenario - and there are other considerations such as the effect of the water on the surface tension in relation to heat and moisture transfer - if anyone can clarify this for me I would be more than happy to receive the information.

I am far removed from the oil spill, living on the west side of North America with my weather coming off the Pacific. But eventually, with the size of the blow out enlarging every day, every hour, its impact will become global with many unforeseen weather events and unexpected consequences of our basic human neglect of the environment. I worry that there may not be any solutions but that mother nature for once will have its time of "blowback" on us. Who would have thought that it would have come from deep underneath the warm tropical waters of the Gulf?

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Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and analyst who examines the world through a syncretic lens. His analysis of international and domestic geopolitical ideas and actions incorporates a lifetime of interest in current events, a desire to (more...)

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