USF Scientists Track Spill
USF Scientists: Deepwater Horizon Spill Oil in Loop Current; Complex Water Movement Slows Slick's Threat to Florida
By Vickie Chachere
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 27, 2010) – Oil spreading from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon well has reached the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current, but predicting where the oil is going continues to be a challenge for scientists.
The fast-moving, warm waters of the Loop Current and the unprecedented nature of the spill require constant monitoring. The latest estimates from the USF College of Marine Science's Ocean Circulation Group released Thursday indicate a portion of the Loop Current moving clockwise could keep the oil slick away from the southern Gulf for a few more days, allowing the oil to become more weathered. The circling loops within the current, however, are known to reconnect.
Using data gathered from five different models tracking the spilled oil, the group - led by USF physical oceanographer Robert Weisberg - expect that the oil will move rapidly through the warm water of the Loop Current. Earlier projections had put the oil on a path from the northern gulf to the Florida Keys and then continue through the Straits of Florida and up the Atlantic Coast. The new projections potentially buy Florida a few more days before the oil nears ecologically sensitive areas of the gulf.
USF researchers on a mission aboard the R/V Weatherbird II to further investigate the spread by collecting water samples and using high-tech sensors which will be able to gather data on conditions in the gulf. The R/V Bellows returned from the Loop Current on Monday and has reported no obvious signs of oil there. However, researchers did find what they suspect could be a small patch of weathered oil. Additional lab studies are underway to verify the material and its possible origins.