Models Show Spill Spreading in Atlantic

MANOA, Hawaii, July 8 (UPI) — Coastlines along the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida could see effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as soon as October, researchers estimated.

The possible spread of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was studied in a series of computer simulations by School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the university said Wednesday in a release.

The simulations also suggest the oil could be transported to Europe, although it would be significantly diluted, researchers said.

Using ocean flow data from simulations conducted with the Ocean General Circulation Model for the Earth Simulator, researchers said they could calculate particle paths from the rig in eight typical OFES “years” over 360 days beginning April 20, the day it exploded. Five years were selected from the eight to create an animation for which the calculated extent of the spill best matched current observational estimates.

The animation doesn’t provide a detailed, specific prediction but offers a scenario that could help guide research and mitigation efforts, researchers said. The dispersal does not capture effects such as oil coagulation, tar ball formation, or chemical and microbial degradation, they explained.

Among other things, the animation showed that once the particles entered the Atlantic, northeasterly winds that intensify near Florida in October and November would help push the oil closer to the eastern U.S. shores, researchers said.

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