At first glance, it seems ludicrous that an oil spill way up in the Gulf of Mexico could make it all the way around Florida to the Atlantic. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible, thanks to the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current. The Loop Current moves southeast, meets the Florida Current, and merges into the Gulf Stream.
On Twitter, Ben Landis (@younglandis) pointed us to an ocean circulation model from North Carolina State University that predicts strong eastward transport from oil-affected regions. The black arrows represent ocean currents. When there are many arrows together, that means strong currents. (The colors in this map (zeta), is a measure of sea surface height. In this case it shows different water masses, like the warm Caribbean water and the cooler Gulf Stream).
So where is the oil spill now? Unfortunately the NOAA page is down as of 10 AM PST, but here’s where the spill was yesterday. It seems well north of the fastest-moving area of the Gulf Loop Current, but this could change as the oil spreads.
For more on whether the oil will reach the Atlantic coast, see this excellent blog post from Andrew Freedman at the Washington Post.