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How much of the Gulf and East coast shorelines could get hit with oil from the BP spill?

Easy Answer: There's bad news for the Mississippi River Delta to the western panhandle of Florida (no surprise there) and good news for parts of Texas and North Carolina.

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NOAA just released new models of where the oil from the BP spill might travel.  Some findings:

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"This analysis indicates that a significant portion of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico shoreline has some chance of being threatened by shoreline oiling. Additionally, there is a high probability that some portion of the floating oil will exit the Gulf through the Florida Straits and be carried up the U.S. East Coast in the Gulf Stream by winds. However, most of the oil will remain in the Gulf Stream--weathering, spreading, and scattering as it moves toward the North Atlantic. Any oil that does travel up the U.S. East Coast will be highly weathered and widely scattered."

"The coastlines with the highest probability for impact (81 to 100 percent) extend from the Mississippi River Delta to the western panhandle of Florida where there has been and will likely continue to be oil impacts.

Along U.S. Gulf of Mexico shorelines, the oil is more likely to move east than west, with much of the coast of Texas showing a relatively low probability of oiling (ranging from less than one percent in southern Texas to up to 40 percent near the Louisiana border).

Much of the west coast of Florida has a low probability (20 percent down to less than one percent) of oiling, but the Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas have a greater probability (61 to 80 percent) due to the potential influence of the Loop Current. Any oil reaching this area would have spent considerable time degrading and dispersing and would be in the form of scattered tar balls and not a large surface slick of oil.

There is a low probability of shoreline impacts from eastern central Florida up the Eastern Seaboard (20 percent diminishing to less than one percent). Potential impacts become increasingly unlikely north of North Carolina as the Gulf Stream moves away from the continental U.S. at Cape Hatteras. If oil does reach these areas, it will be in the form of tar balls or highly weathered oil."

 

NOAA model

 

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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