by EdgerBritish Petroleum's (BP's) Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling site is near a circulating current in the Gulf of Mexico called the Loop Current.
There are strong indications from scientific observations and tracking of the oil leak (both the surface slick and oil rising from the seabed) from the well blowout that the oil will enter the Gulf Stream in the next few days via the Loop Current.
How and why this can happen is described in a short video produced by The University of South Florida College of Marine Science Ocean Circulation Group (OCG/CMS/USF) showing the affecting Gulf currents and the trajectory of the oil:
There hasn't been much talk so far about what happens if the oil does get into the Gulf Stream.
Lucy Campbell at the legal news site lawyersandsettlements.com today describes the potential (likely) problem this way:
New Orleans, LA: As the impact of the BP oil spill continues to grow, and oil continues to ooze unimpeded from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, experts are worried that the Loop Current, which travels north into the Gulf, could pick up the slick and carry it toward Florida, through the keys, around the Florida panhandle and up the eastern seaboard.
The Loop Current begins in the Caribbean and travels clockwise up to the mighty Gulf Stream, which runs along the eastern seaboard of the US and into Canada. Currently the uncapped wellhead is sitting roughly 5,000 feet underwater and is spewing 210,000 gallons, or 794,937 liters, of crude oil into the Gulf every day. But if this oil gets picked up by the Loop, the scope of the disaster could broaden, affecting the eastern seaboard as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
"If oil is swept up into the Loop Current--which moves at about 3.3 to 6.5 feet (one to two meters) a second--there's essentially no way to stop it," Tony Sturges, professor emeritus in oceanography at Florida State University, told National Geographic. "Once [oil] gets into the loop current, you can bet the farm it will go around to the south" of the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf Stream." Florida should be bracing for the worst, he added. The noxious oil could get pulled into estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways, affecting nurseries for valuable fisheries.
If BP is able to "cap" the leak on the seabed soon this might not present as much of a problem as it can if the leak continues, but can rapidly become a much worse nightmare if the well head disintegrates thus increasing the flow of oil from the undersea reservoir, and this is something that has never been attempted before, so the engineers and BP employees on site are basically operating on guesswork and hope.
As Sean Reilly reported earlier today in Alabama Local News:
"The top executive of BP PLC strongly defended his company's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill today, but acknowledged that he cannot say how long it will take to stop the leaking well some 90 miles south of Dauphin Island.
"That's the question that no can answer with any finality,' Tony Hayward said in a meeting this afternoon with reporters from Gulf Coast newspapers and the Associated Press."
Hayward would know of course, if anyone would, it being his company's well.
Last Friday April 30, Alabama Local News also reported that:
"A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster in the Gulf makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf.
"The following is not public," reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28. "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought."
Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night. Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, "I'm letting the document you have speak for itself."
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