Check out these actual images from NASA's high resolution MODIS Terra and Aqua satellties of the oil spill over time.
The progression shows just how the spill has grown in area and spread over the past few weeks.
The image below from May 24th shows the oil penetrating the sensitive coastal marshes of the Mississippi Delta.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) released results from a series of computer models Thursday depicting the likely path of the Gulf oil spill plume over the next few months.
The alarming results show vividly how the impacts of the oil plume may spread quickly well beyond the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the East Coast into the Atlantic.
Here is one of the more alarming parts of the report detailing why the oil plume may spread much more quickly in the coming months.
Oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20 from a blown-out undersea well, the result of an explosion and fire on an oil rig. The spill is located in a relatively stagnant area of the Gulf, and the oil so far has remained relatively confined near the Louisiana and Alabama coastlines, although there have been reports of small amounts in the Loop Current.
The model simulations show that a liquid released in the surface ocean at the spill site is likely to slowly spread as it is mixed by the ocean currents until it is entrained in the Loop Current. At that point, speeds pick up to about 40 miles per day, and when the liquid enters the Atlantic's Gulf Stream it can travel at speeds up to about 100 miles per day, or 3,000 miles per month.
I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to find what we are witnessing in the Gulf surreal and incomprehensible. It seems as if the incredible scope of this disaster is only now becoming apparent. It's unthinkable to comprehend what WILL happen when (not if) a hurricane impacts the spill zone this season.
Check out this great site combining many NOAA projections of the spill zone.
Stay tuned, and hope for the best...somehow.
Posted at 5:19 PM on May 19, 2010
by Paul Huttner
Filed under: Gulf oil spill
Satellite images and computer models indicate that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has entered the Gulf Loop Current.
This is significant because as the loop current taps into the oil slick area, oil will move more quickly out of the Gulf and toward the Florida Keys and potentially up the East Coast of the United States.
Forecast models project that some of the oil slick could reach the Florida Keys within the next 5 to 10 days.
With the 2010 hurricane season just around the corner (June1-Nov 30th) there has been considerable speculation as to what will happen if/when a hurricane strikes the oil slick area in the Gulf of Mexico.
This year there may be increased reason for concern. Hurricane forecasters expect an above average number of Atlantic hurricanes this year. And already tropical Atlantic SST's are running as much as 2 degrees C above average in the main development area (MDA) for Atlantic Hurricanes off the African coast.
The record warm water temperatures support the notion of increased Atlantic hurricane activity this year.
Here's what meteorologists know and don't know about hurricanes interacting with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
What we think we know:
Hurricane development & intensity
-According to Dennis Feltgen from the National Hurricane Center, the oil slick wouldn't affect a hurricane's intensity or track. The circulations are too big and too well established, and hurricanes are driven by steering currents far above the ocean's surface.
-Oil on the ocean's surface DOES suppress evaporation of sea water. That could act to suppress tropical storm development as evaporation is a primary driver of tropical cyclone development.
Oil spill containment:
-High winds and rough seas would likely stop containment efforts destroy containment booms, opening shores to oil.
-Storm surges would likely carry increased volumes of oil to inland bays and beaches.
What we don't know:
-There is the possibility that hurricane force winds could lift oil off the sea surface and send it airborne in a blowing oily sea spray. If the oil and dispersant is aerosolized, it could be carried far inland and become a threat to crops and human health. We don't know what kind of wind speeds it would take to do this, and how far the toxic oily spray could travel. This is likely a worst case scenario.
-Will the Gulf Loop Current tap into the oil slick and drive it around Florida and toward the east coast? This may increase the likelihood of a hurricane impact over an oil slicked area.
Bottom line: A hurricane over a major oil spill has never happened before in human history. We are literally in uncharted waters here. This is like a big lab experiment that may take place over the next 6 months. We just don't know how an oil slick this size and hurricanes will interact.
We may find out in the coming months.
It was a stiff wind along the Gulf Coast last weekend. Steady southeast to south winds gusting over 30 mph pushed the oil slick toward Louisiana over the weekend. 10 foot waves slammed the coast, making it difficult if not impossible to contain the spill, and moving it ever so slowly toward the coast.
The forecast is a good news/bad news scenario, depending on where you live on the coast. Lighter winds and smoother seas will allow crews to resume containment and mitigation efforts. A shift in wind direction to more westerly will tend to push the growing oil slick eastward toward Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Twin Cities: Roller coaster temperature week.
The thermometer will be like the stock market this week. Lots of ups and downs.
We start on the cooler side with 50s and 60s in Minnesota Monday. Tuesday will bring warm southerly breezes, and temps will push into the 70s in the southern half of the state. A cool front will blow through again mid-week, returning us to the cooler 50s by late week.
Look for chance for rain late Tuesday as the front slams through.
Congratulations. You've just enjoyed a once in a lifetime April.
When the final numbers are tallied, April's average monthly temperature in the Twin Cities will roll in at about 54.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 8.3 degrees warmer than average and the 4th warmest April on record in the Twin Cities since Pioneer records began in 1820. The last April that was this warm in the metro was in 1915.
Here are the top 10 warmest Aprils according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.
Rank Temp Year
* as of April 27
Weekend Weather: Mixed bag
Look for a blustery unsettled weekend in Minnesota. Generally speaking, the weather will be better in the southern half of Minnesota this weekend, with cooler showery unsettled weather in the north.
Look for scattered showers in northern Minnesota with weekend highs in the 50s. Southern Minnesota will see a bit more sunshine and just a slight chance of a shower with highs in the 60s. Saturday will feature brisk gusty southwest winds at 15 to 30 mph. Sunday will feature lighter winds from the west at between 10 and 20 mph.
Gulf oil spill comes ashore:
Weather conditions will feature steady brisk southeast to south winds along the Gulf Coast this weekend. That will drive the oil slick on the surface of the Gulf Coast onto shore. Trajectory forecasts put the plume into the Louisiana coastline first, followed by Mississippi, Alabama and eventually Florida by early next week.
It is tragic to watch the oil slowly move ashore knowing that the leak is spewing more oil each day 5,000 feet below the surface. What satellites and video can see on the surface is only a small portion of the total oil that is lurking below in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Keep track of the lastest developments from NOAA here.