Friday, June 4, 2010

Computer models suggest oil may zoom up east coast

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about supercomputer models of the Gulf oil slick, which suggest that it may enter the Gulf Stream and zoom up the Atlantic coast:
New supercomputer studies suggest it is "very likely" ocean currents will carry oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico around the tip of Florida and thousands of miles up the U.S. East Coast this summer, researchers announced Thursday.

"It is truly a simulation, not a prediction," said Terry Wallace, principal associate director for science, technology and engineering at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which collaborated on the project. "But it shows that when you inject something into the Gulf, it is likely to have much larger consequences."

So far the oil has been confined by strong eddies, but that is almost certainly a temporary respite, say oceanographers.

Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and the Los Alamos laboratory used a $100 million computer model of the world's ocean-circulation patterns to assess how currents could sweep the oil out of the Gulf.

The simulations show a strong Loop Current almost inevitably will pull the oil into the powerful Gulf Stream. It would then travel up the Atlantic coast at a speed of about 100 miles a day.

From these simulations we can say with a high degree of certainty that it is very likely sometime in the next six months that oil from this spill will get into the Atlantic," said oceanographer Synte Peacock of the NCAR, who is running the project. "We can say that when it happens, it will be fast, much faster than anything we have seen so far," she said.
The Journal's Lee Hotz has more at the News Hub:

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