Oil Already in Loop Current, Headed for Florida Keys

The Loop Current in the Gulf
The Loop Current in the Gulf travels around the tip of Florida and up the East Coast.
ST. PETERSBURG (2010-5-17) -

Researchers have evidence that oil from the Deepwater Horizon well accident in the Gulf of Mexico is on its way to the Florida Keys, carried by currents.

That evidence comes from computer models, satellite images and an eyewitness observation on a University of South Florida research vessel.

That ship, the Weatherbird II, returned Monday after studying plankton levels at the oil spill site.

USF Oceanographer Ernst Peebles says computer models show the surface oil has been picked up by the loop current. It flows north from the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf, then curves east and then south into the Florida Keys.

"We saw evidence in mathematical models that the surface oil was starting to become entrained into the loop current and then there was also satellite evidence of the same thing," Peebles said.

"And there have been scattered reports of observed oil further south, including one made by our own captain," he said.

More researchers will sail this week to look for oil in the loop current. Peebles estimates it will take about a week for the small amount already in the loop to reach the Florida Keys.

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