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Oil Spill and Hurricane Season

Would a tropical storm or hurricane do more harm or good to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick has some answers.

NOAA has recently answered several questions regarding tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico and whether the oil spill will play a role in the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season. 

Will a hurricane passing over the oil spill have negative or perhaps maybe a positive impact? 

Where will the oil go once a hurricane moves over or near the spill?

Will the oil actually slow tropical development?

The high winds and seas will mix and disperse the oil which can help accelerate the bio-degradation process.

The high winds may distribute oil over a wider area, but it is difficult to model exactly where the oil may be transported.

Storms' surges may carry oil into the coastline and inland as far as the surge reaches.

Debris resulting from the hurricane may be contaminated by oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident, but also from other oil releases that may occur during the storm.

The spread and movement of oil would depend greatly on the track of the hurricane.

In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise:

Scenario #1: Driving Oil Onshore

- A hurricane passing to the west of the oil slick could drive oil to the coast.

Scenario #2: Driving Oil Offshore

- A hurricane passing to the east of the slick could drive the oil away from the coast.
 

The details of the evolution of the storm, the track, the wind speed, the size, the forward motion and the intensity are all unknowns at this point and may alter this general statement and how these two scenarios actually play out.

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