Hurricanes and the Oil Spill - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Hurricanes and the Oil Spill

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The oil spill has become one of the worst ecological disasters in United States history.  Oil continues to spill out into the Gulf of Mexico waters.  With our first named tropical storm already in the western parts of the Gulf, hurricane season is definitely underway. Now the big question is, how will the oil spill react with a major hurricane in the Gulf.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released a response to this question.  One of the questions that they answer is, will the oil spill effect the size and strength of the hurricane as it moves over the oil spill.  One thing that a hurricane needs for formation and strengthening is evaporation of the warm water into the storm.  With a layer of oil on top of the water, a slight reduction in the evaporation rates may occur.  However,  the oil is so dispersed already, that the layer of oil over the water is very thin and therefore will not effect the evaporation rates.  Also, with the amount of winds associated with a tropical storm or hurricane, the winds will churn up the ocean and further disperse the oil allowing for efficient evaporation to occur.  Also, some have been speculating that a hurricane might evaporate the oil along with water into the storm causing "Oil rain".  This is very false.  In evaporation, only water is evaporated into the air, leaving the oil behind.  Also, the oil slick will not affect the size or intensity of the hurricane.  So, the oil slick is not likely to have an effect on hurricane formation or intensification.

One other factor is how the oil will react to the hurricane moving near it.  A hurricane passing through the oil spill would have both negative and positive effects on the oil slick.  The positive being that the high winds will mix up and churn the oil causing the biodegradation processes to be sped up.  The negative being that the hurricane will most likely disperse the oil into a wider area.  It will depend on the track of the storm to tell where the oil will move.  Also, the storm surge associated with the hurricane will likely carry oil inland with it.  Thus, contaminating anything it reaches.  This all depends highly on the track of the hurricane.  A hurricane rotates counter-clockwise.  If the hurricane's center hits to the west of the oil slick, the oil will be pushed on land.  If the hurricane's center moves to the east of the slick, the oil will be dispersed out into the ocean.

We know that there will most likely be hurricanes this season.  We know that a hurricane could potentially move into the gulf.  It is up to the clean up efforts to continue to get the situation under control now before hurricane season really becomes active.

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