New Orleans, LAAs the impact of the BP oil spill continues to grow, and oil continues to ooze unimpeded from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, experts are worried that the Loop Current, which travels north into the Gulf, could pick up the slick and carry it toward Florida, through the keys, around the Florida panhandle and up the eastern seaboard.
The Loop Current begins in the Caribbean and travels clockwise up to the mighty Gulf Stream, which runs along the eastern seaboard of the US and into Canada. Currently the uncapped wellhead is sitting roughly 5,000 feet underwater and is spewing 210,000 gallons, or 794,937 liters, of crude oil into the Gulf every day. But if this oil gets picked up by the Loop, the scope of the disaster could broaden, affecting the eastern seaboard as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
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"If oil is swept up into the Loop Current—which moves at about 3.3 to 6.5 feet (one to two meters) a second—there's essentially no way to stop it," Tony Sturges, professor emeritus in oceanography at Florida State University, told National Geographic. "Once [oil] gets into the loop current, you can bet the farm it will go around to the south" of the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf Stream." Florida should be bracing for the worst, he added. The noxious oil could get pulled into estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways, affecting nurseries for valuable fisheries.
At the moment, the track of the oil slick is unpredictable. Oceanographers and a myriad of disaster response people can only follow it and keep coastal communities advised of all the possible scenarios.