Sen. Nelson Meets With USF Marine Circulation Expert

U.S. Sen. Nelson Meets with USF Marine Circulation Expert on Spill

By Vickie Chachere

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 7, 2010) – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was briefed on the projected trajectory of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Friday, learning from USF ocean circulation researcher Robert Weisberg that Florida’s west coast appears to be safe from contamination now, but much uncertainty remains as the oil spill continues to grow larger.

The briefing came as the senator, who advocates keeping areas of the gulf closer to Florida off limits to drilling, came to St. Petersburg to visit coordinated spill response efforts on a local, state and national level. Weisberg, the director of the USF College of Marine Science’s Ocean Circulation Group, has been providing authorities with precise models that track and predict the spill’s movement through the gulf.

Of key concern to Florida officials is the oil’s movement near the Loop Current, which travels through the central gulf and could push the oil toward the Florida Keys and up the Straight of Florida to the state’s Atlantic Coast. Some 85 percent of the living coral reefs in North America are near the Keys, Nelson noted.

As of Friday afternoon, the spill remained about 30 kilometers from the most northwestern edge of the Loop Current and 130 kilometers from the center from the powerful current, Weisberg said. That bodes well for the west coast of Florida, but eyes remain on the winds and the growing pool of oil.

Nelson, nonetheless, told a gathering that included the media and College of Marine Science faculty members that he is concerned about what could happen if the spewing well is not capped and the oil continues to flood into the gulf for weeks on end.

Nelson told the group that this leak illustrates why it is too risky to allow oil drilling closer to Florida’s west coast. In addition to the vital fishing and tourism industry, Nelson noted that the vast section of the central to eastern gulf is a key military testing ground for sophisticated aircraft needed in national defense.

“I don’t want folks messing with the interests of Florida, it’s environment and the interests of national security,” Nelson said.

For the latest models showing the oil’s path through the gulf and the projected trajectory from the Ocean Circulation Group, click here.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.