Researcher: Oil Spill Could Hit Florida

loop current
The loop current in the Gulf can carry oil past the Florida Keys and along the Gulf Stream on the Atlantic coast.
TAMPA (2010-4-23) -

A 2-by-8 mile oil slick is slowly making its way from a sunken oil rig toward the northern Gulf shore, but one researcher says the spill could easily go the other way, toward Florida’s beaches.

The Coast Guard says no crude oil is coming out of the well-head of the sunken rig, but there is oil on the water from the initial explosion.

The winds and currents are pushing the oil slick north, but University of South Florida researcher Robert Weisberg says the spill was close to the so-called loop current, which is a conveyor belt directly to Florida’s beaches.

“At the present time, the loop current isn’t reaching quite as for north as where this spill occurred, but it often does,” Weisberg said.

“If oil gets into the loop current, it can very rapidly get into the Florida Keys and the southeast coast of Florida,” he said.

A spill in the deep Gulf is less likely to affect Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches than those on the Atlantic.

That’s something Weisberg says Congress should consider as it debates lifting a drilling moratorium more than 125 miles from Florida’s Gulf Coast.

A Guard spokesman said he’s confident most of the oil can be contained, but federal and state officials from Louisiana to Alabama are preparing in case the oil comes ashore sometime next week.

CLICK HERE to watch animation of the loop current from the Ocean Circulation Group, which Weisberg leads.

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