Atmosphere And Weather

Will Gulf Oil Spill Affect Hurricane Season 2010

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports they expect an "active to extremely active" hurricane season in 2010 in the Atlantic region. With the already problematic issues resulting from the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April, there have been many concerns and questions regarding how the oil spill could impact hurricane season 2010.

NOAA has predicted the 2010 season to be an active one. Hurricane season, which begins June 1, is projected to have a 70% probability for 14-23 named storms which include 8-14 hurricanes. To be classified a hurricane, a storm that is 74 mph or more, if winds are less than this, but more than 39 mph, it is classified a tropical storm, still noteworthy.

Of the projected hurricanes, 3 to 7 could be category 3, 4, or 5 which means the top winds could be at least 111 mph winds.

Many people have been wondering how the oil spill will impact the 2010 hurricane season. NOAA provides some answers.

When asked whether a hurricane passing over the Gulf oil spill will have a negative or positive impact, NOAA explains "Evaporation from the sea surface fuels tropical storms and hurricanes. Over relatively calm water, in theory, an oil slick could suppress evaporation if the layer is thick enough, by not allowing contact of the water to the air".

At first thought this may sound like the oil spill will have a positive effect and reduce storms, however NOAA further explains that an approaching large storm would stir up the Gulf waters, which includes rousing up the oil which would likely break into smaller pools on the surface. This would actually reduce the effects the oil might have; as a result NOAA feels the oil slick will not have any noteworthy effect on the level and/or strength of hurricane activity.

Another question posed was what would happen as a hurricane tracks through the oil spill. In response to this query NOAA states "High winds and seas will mix and disperse the oil which can help accelerate the biodegradation process"; they also indicated it is difficult to predict where the oil would end up after a hurricane passes through, but acknowledges the oil could be spread over a wider area, including the storm's reach inland.

When evaluating where the oil would go in terms of the coastline, NOAA indicates the track of the hurricane would play a large role in how this would play out and where it was placed in proximity to the oil slick.

Two scenarios are considered. The first is a scenario where if the storm tracked west of the slick, it could result in additional oil out in the Gulf would be blown onshore. In the second scenario where storm tracks to the east, the opposite could occur and oil be pulled away from shore. However variables such as the development of the storm, track, speed of wind, dimensions and how the hurricane moves could change the dynamics of where the oil would end up so it is difficult to predict for sure.

On the topic of whether or not a hurricane could pull up under the surface oil, NOAA states " All of the sampling to date [NOAA emphasizes the this fact] shows that except near the leaking well, the subsurface dispersed oil is in parts per million levels or less. The hurricane will mix the waters of the Gulf and disperse the oil even further".

Since hurricanes and existing oil spills are new territory to contend with it is difficult to predict for sure what will occur as the 2010 hurricane season draws near. In the past oil spills occurred because of hurricanes, not the other way around.

Hurricane preparedness is vital and those who live in hurricane prone regions should be ready their supplies and hurricane preparedness plans because according to NOAA's predictions, the 2010 season is going to probably be an active one.

Quotes and sourced information are courtesy of The Weather Channel and the NOAA website.

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