Gulf_Oil_Spill_may18_Mby Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post

Scientists monitoring the massive BP oil spill gushing out from the well head drilled by the Deepwater Horizon with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Envisat radar satellite say that it has entered the Loop Current, a powerful oceanic conveyor belt that flows clockwise around the Gulf of Mexico towards Florida. It is expected to begin impacting FLorida in six days time.

“With these images from space, we have visible proof that at least oil from the surface of the water has reached the current,” said Dr Bertrand Chapron of Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea.

Dr Chapron also said “Now that oil has entered the Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida within six days. Since Envisat ASAR, ERS-2 and other SAR satellites are systematically planned to acquire data over the area, we will monitor the situation continuously.”

Dr Chapron and Dr Fabrice Collard of France’s CLS have been combining surface roughness and current flow information with Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) data of the area to monitor the proximity of the oil to the current.

In the ASAR image above, acquired on 18 May, a long tendril of the oil spill (outlined in white) extends down into the Loop Current (red arrow).

“We performed advanced processing methods on the images to display surface features like variations in roughness and velocity, which provides insight into the spatial structure of the spill and its transport by surface currents,” Dr Collard explained.

From the ASAR images of 12 May and 15 May, the oil spill was observed stretching increasingly closer to the Loop Current, raising concerns that it could reach the current and be carried south towards coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

The scientists warn however that since the Loop Current is a very intense, deep ocean current, its turbulent waters will accelerate the mixing of the oil and water in the coming days.

“This might remove the oil film on the surface and prevent us from tracking it with satellites, but the pollution is likely to affect the coral reef marine ecosystem,” Dr Collard said.

Combined efforts using satellite imagery and in-situ measurements of collected water samples will help to assess whether oil is in the deep waters of the ocean.

The Loop Current joins the Gulf Stream — the northern hemisphere’s most important ocean-current system — sparking fears that oil could enter this system and be carried up to the US East Coast.

© 2010, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.

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    Than maybe we’re not meant to be

  • http://www.spilaleikur.com Leik

    this is so good, thanks for usefull article, i like this…