Oil from the Gulf might enter the Atlantic

June 15, 2010

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has now been going on for 56 days. It has devastated the wildlife in the area. The damaged well has been leaking approximately 20,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil per day. On June 3rd BP lowered a new containment cap to catch some of the flow coming out from the damaged pipe. This cap, says BP is collecting 10,000 barrels of oil per day and transporting it to a tanker on the surface. No one knows the exact estimate but with 20,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil leaking per day -according to which estimate you follow-  this isn’t much.

As the oil surfaces on the ocean people are wondering how far it is going to travel.  Researchers National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have carried out a detailed simulation of the oil. This video animation of their simulation shows that the oil is going to spread out thousands of miles along the Atlantic coastline and the open ocean as soon as this summer.

Dr. Synte Peacock, an oceanographer at NCAR said in an interview in EarthSky.org on that the simulations used a dye, and not oil. A dye would travel to the Atlantic Ocean, but oil would behave differently.

Her team thinks that it’s very likely that the oil will get into the Atlantic

If it does, she said, people shouldn’t expect oil to coat Atlantic beaches and wildlife. That’s because, over the months it would take to travel there – if it does travel there – some oil will evaporate, be eaten by microbes, and become diluted in sea water.

Dr. Peacock added that in all the possible scenarios and simulations that were tested, oil from the oil spill traveled outside of the Gulf within 6 months. But she added that it’s still unclear if or how the oil will affect beaches on the Atlantic Coast. That eventual outcome is partially dependent on local weather around the time the oil reaches a beach.

While the world has turned their attention to the FIFA World Cup, images like this are becoming more common throughout the Gulf of Mexico and they might appear in the Atlantic.

A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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