The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was caused by the explosion of a BP offshore oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which is classified as the ninth largest body of water in the world and it is bordered by Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. It occupies a 600,000 square mile area.
The leak started on the 20th of April, 2010 and has been stopped.
False Colour MISR Image of Slick. This image is 346 by 258 km
What would happen if a hurricane entered the area?
For those that don’t yet know, hurricanes are 100-300 miles wide, and they do move large amounts of water, but people are concerned about where hurricanes may move the spilled oil this season.
Some common questions are:
- Would a hurricane wash the spilled oil onto the shore? and where on shore?
- Would a hurricane disperse the spilled oil?
- How much would the spilled oil be dispersed?
- How would the spilled oil affect hurricanes that enter the area?
According to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), the following are possibilities:
- Dispersal: A hurricane would disperse the oil to some extent, but the extent and locations where it would end up in are difficult to predict.
- Hurricane Track and Intensity: The spilled oil is not likely to have a noteworthy effect on the intensity nor track of a fully developed tropical storm or hurricane. A thick enough layer of oil slick on the surface could inhibit the evaporation of water, reducing the strength of hurricanes in the area. This is unlikely because the slick is patchy.
- Biodegradation: The high winds and seas would mix and “weather” the oil, accelerating the biodegradation process.
- Storm Surge: Storm surges would carry the oil as far inland as the surges themselves reach. The spilled oil is not expected to affect storm surge and shore waves much. Storm surge is water pushed by a storm’s winds towards the shore.
- Oil Blowing Onto The Shore: A hurricane’s winds rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, therefore, they could drive oil onto the shore.
- Oil Rain: The rain dumped by the hurricane will not contain oil. Hurricanes absorb water from a very wide area of the ocean.
The oil spill resulted in less tourists visiting certain gulf coast areas, lessening the income of nearby tourist hotels, beaches, and restaurants.
The gulf coast fish, shrimp, and oyster industry were also negatively affected due to the fact that certain parts of the gulf are closed to fishing, and because fish were killed by the oil, the spill also made people afraid of the seafood that comes from the area, and people who don’t know where their seafood comes from are also concerned. This may have affected seafood sales. I am waiting for information pertaining to the economic impact of the spill.
As oil leaks from the well, the amount of oil in the well is reduced.
EPA: Gulf of Mexico