What The BP Spill Might Look Like 360 Days Later

If you’ve got any plans to ever visit any beaches on the east coast, best get them in this summer before it’s too late. That’s the conclusion you can draw if this simulation by researchers of how the BP Gulf spill will look 360 days after April 20th comes to pass.

The simulation, which is only one possible scenario, was created by a team of researchers at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Department of Oceanography, and the International Pacific Research Center Hawaii. They caution that it is not a detailed forecast and does not take into account effects like coagulation, tarballs, dispersion and microbial degradation.
Here’s what they said of their science:

For the simulations, 5 million buoyant particles were released continuously from April 20 to September 17, 2010, at the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The release occurred in ocean flow data from simulations conducted with the high-resolution Ocean General Circulation Model for the Earth Simulator (OFES). The paths of the particles were calculated over 360 days from the beginning of the spill. The simulations were conducted with surface ocean circulation data of 5 typical years rather than the actual flow fields…

The animations show the calculated surface particle concentrations for grid boxes about 10-km-by-10-km in size into April 2011. For an estimated flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well of 50,000 barrels per day over a 150 day period, a concentration of e.g. 10 particles per a grid box corresponds roughly to an oil volume of 2 m3 per ~100 km2 area. The animations show the initial spreading of oil into the Gulf of Mexico followed by its entry from the Loop Current into the narrow Florida Current and then the Gulf Stream. Transported by the Gulf Stream, the erratic paths of the particles in the Atlantic are due to strong current instabilities associated with ocean eddies and recirculations. This leads to a high degree of particle dispersal and dilution in the open Atlantic away from the coast.

These computer simulations suggest that the coastlines near the Carolinas, Georgia and Northern Florida could see the effects of the oil spill as early as October 2010.

Quick, someone drop some Philip Glass on the soundtrack.