Study: Oil May Spread Thousands of Miles

BOULDER, Colo., June 3 (UPI) — U.S.-led scientists say they’ve made a detailed computer modeling study that suggests oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill might soon cover thousands of miles.

The study, released Thursday by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, indicates the oil might extend along thousands of miles of the Atlantic coast and open ocean as early as this summer.

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?’” said center scientist Synte Peacock, who worked on the study. “Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.”

The researchers said their computer simulations indicate once the oil joins the Gulf of Mexico’s fast-moving Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida’s Atlantic coast within weeks. It can then move north as far as about Cape Hatteras, before turning east.

Whether the oil will be a thin film on the surface or mostly subsurface due to mixing in the uppermost region of the ocean is not known, the scientists said.

Peacock and her colleagues stressed their simulations are not a forecast “because it is impossible to accurately predict the precise location of the oil weeks or months from now.” Instead, they said the simulations only provide possible scenarios for the oil dispersal.

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