Think the problems in the Gulf of Mexico are far removed from you and your summer plans? Think again.
Oil pulsing from the April 20 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico could slip into the Gulf Stream's loop current and begin to shoot up the Atlantic coastline by the end of the month - just as thousands of tourists are flocking to beaches along North and South Carolina.
A computer modeling study released Thursday shows that once the slick joins the loop current, it could move northward at up to 100 miles a day. It would flow up to Cape Hatteras and then turn northeast out into the Atlantic, according to the models, which were produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The center, funded by the National Science Foundation, produces climate science for universities.
The six models are simulations - not forecasts - meaning they don't say exactly how the oil could flow. The oil slick would be affected by local weather conditions and the ever-shifting pattern of the loop current.
But the scientists who produced the models said the oil is likely to have a widespread effect.
"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," said Synte Peacock, an oceanographer with NCAR.
"We can ask, Are there any scenarios where the oil stays in the Gulf? The answer seems to be no," Peacock said. "We can ask, Is there any possibility it's going to stay [within the Gulf] for six months? And the answer seems to be no to that, too."
Read the rest of this News and Observer/McClatchy Newspapers article, by Barbara Barrett, here.
Take a look at the model yourself:
Further reading: What the Spill Will Kill -- Newsweek