Hurricane Alex, The First To Potentially Turn Oil Spill Into Black Surf
As of June 1, with 'Alex' as the nom de plume of the first, the hurricane season is officially underway and will run its course from now until November 30, 2010. The clock is ticking away for the BP clean-up in the Gulf to ward off any possibility of a 'perfect storm' combining the oil spill calamity with the climatic forces of hurricane winds.
While scientists seem to agree that the devastating expanse of the oil slick in the Gulf couldn't affect the formation of a storm, the real concern is contingent upon an existing storm coming in from that direction transforming the millions of gallons of floating crude into "a crashing black crude" surf.
Alex is the name of the first Atlantic Basin storm of 2010 because Hurricane names rotate in a six-year cycle with the 2010 list being a repeat of the 2004 names. The World Meteorological Organization retired the names of four major hurricanes that made landfall in Florida during 2004: Charley, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne. They have been replaced on the list by Colin, Fiona, Igor and Julia.
Ocean scientists say the Gulf of Mexico's strong loop current could move the oil all the way around the tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast.
This time last year, most South Floridians wouldn't have known the difference between the Loop Current and Fruit Loops.
They sure do now, with a dubious thanks to the Gulf oil disaster.
The same oceanographic pattern that could drag oil from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic -- and dump tar balls onto South Florida beaches -- already is a predicted culprit in a season promising eight hurricanes, half of them "major,'' according to top weather forecasters.
According to Megan Taylor and a KEZI ABC News report, the oil could be impacted by a hurricane that goes through the slick. For example, a general estimate by NOAA is that a hurricane passing to the west could drive the oil onshore. A hurricane passing to the east, could do the exact opposite.
If a hurricane passes through the oil slick, several things could happen:
- Oil could be mixed in with the ocean more, which could speed up the biodegradation process
- High winds and seas could spread the oil out over a larger area (no models exist to predict where it would go)
- Storm surges from the hurricane could carry oil inland as far as the water reaches
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an active season, with as many as 23 named tropical storms. An estimated eight to 14 storms could strengthen into hurricanes.
In case you missed it, the first storm of the Pacific hurricane season formed over the weekend. Tropical Storm Agatha made landfall in Guatemala. It quickly weakened to an area of low pressure. That remnant low has now reemerged in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize.
If Alex follows its historical antecedent, the hurricane under the same name did not target the Gulf of Mexico in 2004. In stead, it produced strong waves and rip tides along the East Coast of the United States, causing one death, several injuries and light damage in the Outer Banks, primarily from flooding and high winds. Over 100 houses were damaged, while numerous cars were disabled from the flooding. Damage totaled about $7.5 million (in 2004 USD).
UPDATE- CNN - June 26 - Well, it has finally formulated. Tropical Storm Alex is underway, approximately 250 miles from Chetumal, Mexico, moving toward Belize and the Yucatan. A tropical storm in the oil-tainted Gulf of Mexico could disrupt BP efforts to drill relief wells and capture the oil at sea. It would also complicate efforts to clean up miles of coastline. As of yet, no word whether the store will hit the Gulf. Stay tuned for future updates.
UPDATE: CNN - June 30 - Hurricane Alex, just upgraded from tropical storm, is headed towards the western Gulf of Mexico and will likely hit southern Texas or northeastern Mexico on July 1. Scientists say Alex is moving erratically, but basically westward with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Though, luckily for those living things in the Gulf, the hurricane will not directly hit the BP oil spill, the storm is making cleanup efforts difficult by sending 12 foot waves into the area.
UPDATE: Bloomberg - July 1 - Hurricane Alex was downgraded to a tropical storm after its maximum sustained wind speed slowed to 70 miles per hour from 80 mph and it came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said today in an advisory on its website.