June 6, 2010 - I got worried about the BP oil slick, meaning the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I feared the oil might reach the Bahamas and Eleuthera island in particular.
Therefore I did some solid research on the Web and here is what I found...
Danger of an oil spill expansion comes from the action of the Loop Current which is active in the Gulf of Mexico where the BP deep water drilling platform exploded on April 20, 2010.
As you can see, the Loop Current will not touch Eleuthera and therefore Eleuthera's beaches are safe.
That cannot be said of all other islands in the Bahamas. The Bimini islands, famous for deep sea fishing, are endangered and so are the beaches of Freeport the second largest and highly touristic town in the Bahamas. Freeport is situated on the western tip of Grand Bahama island.
For a detailed map showing the Loop Current and most Bahamian islands, click here. (This will open a new window.)
As you can see above, the Loop Current - indicated with small, white arrows - flows into the Gulf of Mexico where it comes close to the oil slick.
The 36 sec. video above shows an animation of the Loop Current, both at the surface and at 100 meters = 300 feet below sea level. It shows clearly where parts of the oil spill might get deposited. Click on the triangle in the center of the above picture to see the animation.
By the beginning of June 2010, scientists believed the oil slick had entered the Loop Current which feeds directly into the Gulf Stream. Measurements show a dense layer of oil 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick sitting under the water surface.
While reports indicated that the chemical dispersants sprayed over the spilled oil were working to keep the oil from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, the Loop Current may also help to push the oil farther away.
The Loop Current is an ocean current. Animate it by clicking on the triangle in the center of the above photo.
This current transports warm Caribbean water between Cuba and the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. It flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico. Then it loops southeastward to the Florida Keys. From there it is called the Florida Current.
The Florida Current flows west of the westernmost Bahamas, i.e. the Bimini islands and Grand Bahama (Freeport). These are the Bahamian islands endangered by the oil spill.
The waters of the Florida Current flow northward along the U.S. east coast and become the Gulf Stream. That's why there is fear in the U.S. that the east side of the country might get polluted.
According to the weather site www.wunderground.com the Loop Current is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Its speed is about 1.8 miles/hour.
The underwater Loop Current is about 125 to 190 miles wide, and 2,600 feet deep. It is present in the Gulf of Mexico about 95% of the time. During summer and fall, the Loop Current provides a 260 to 500 feet deep layer of vary warm water.
The graphic above shows eddies (circular currents). They are a spin-off phenomenon of the Loop Current. Eddies have the potential to transport the oil slick in any direction within the Gulf of Mexico.
The whole system is in a perpetual flow and changes all the time. But the main currents like the Loop Current, the Florida Current and the Gulf Stream remain quite constant.
For an always updated expansion of the oil slick, click here. Then pull the scroll bar on the right, down to Oil Spill Forecast - 72 hours and click into the square next to that entry. You will see a map showing the forecasted expansion within the next 72 hours.
June 6, 2010 - Please note that I will be updating this page as the situation changes.