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Curious How Oil Spill Will Impact Hurricane Season

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Shane Doan, Johnny Boychuk

Curious How Oil Spill Will Impact Hurricane SeasonGetty Images

Scientists are trying to figure out what is going to happen with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when hurricane season approaches.

Jerry from Whitinsville Declared his Curiosity on the matter:

What is going to happen when a hurricane comes into the Gulf?

WBZ’s Joe Joyce went in search of the answer.

With today being the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, many questions have been raised about how the oil will affect these storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been working on the details since the spill first occurred.

Past experience is primarily with oil that occurred due to a storm. There is not much experience of hurricanes directly going over oil spills.

Most hurricanes span over 300 miles, which is significantly larger than the current spill. Because of this, experts say the impact on a well-developed hurricane will be minimal at best. The oil is not expected to affect either the intensity or the track of a fully developed tropical storm or hurricane.

The oil slick would also have little effect on the storm surge or near-shore wave heights.

Instead, the large wind and wave action will have chopping effect to the oil and help to dilute it — like a giant blender. A hurricane would more likely mix the water and oil and disperse it more, rather than cause concentration on the surface.

The big question is what is going to happen to all this oil?

The spread and movement of oil would depend greatly on the track of the hurricane. A hurricane passing to the west of the oil slick could drive oil to the coast. A hurricane passing to the east of the slick could drive the oil away from the coast.

If a hurricane passes through the oil slick, several things could happen:

  1. Oil could be mixed in with the ocean more, which could speed up the biodegradation process
  2. High winds and seas could spread the oil out over a larger area
  3. Storm surges from the hurricane could carry oil inland as far as the water reaches

Once the oil penetrates inland, the real problems will start.

On top of the damage which can be delivered from a hurricane, drinking water, ecosystems and homes along the coast will all be contaminated.

The impact will be felt for months after the storm is gone.

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