Oil Spill Physical Oceanography Summit

Scientists can describe how ocean circulation typically works in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, due to their understanding of the Gulf’s Loop Current, the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream, and the relationship between the two. A band of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of NOAA.Yet researchers say there are many unanswered questions as to if, when and how oil and other effects from the Deepwater Horizon incident will reach waters off and/or the shorelines of South Atlantic states.

How much oil has spilled into the Gulf? Where is the spill -- in its various forms and concentrations -- in relation to the Loop Current? How much of the oil might eventually be entrained in the Loop Current? What physical and chemical forms will the degraded oil take as it weathers in the Gulf?

These are just of a few of the unknowns that need to be answered before scientists can make reasonable predictions on the spill’s reach.

To begin to consider the potential movement of the oil, physical oceanographers at a South Atlantic Sea Grant regional summit in June 2010 broke the discussion into three likely phases that can be anticipated:

  1. Oil movement from the Deepwater Horizon toward the Gulf’s Loop Current (...more)
  2. The Gulf’s Loop Current /Gulf Stream conveyer belt (...more)
  3. Potential oil movement from the Gulf Stream toward the coastal or nearshore waters along the South Atlantic states (...more)

SEE ALSO: Oil Spill Chemical Characteristics Summit, June 29, 2010

Last Updated July 12, 2010

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