Hurricane + Oil Spill = ?

  1. What would happen if a hurricane swept through the gulf over the area of the spill? How would the oil effect water temp., which contributes to hurricane strength?
    Would a hurricane pick-up and disperse the oil inland if it made land-fall?...or would a hurricane basically spread the oil out so far and thin that it would be harmless?
    What if lightning struck the oil? What if the oil was carried inland and dropped onto farmland?
    Anyone know?
  2. jcsd
  3. matthyaouw

    matthyaouw 1,149
    Gold Member

    As I understand it hurricane strength is in part due to the amount of water evaporation that occurs which is largely determined by water temperature. It has been hypothesised that spreading a film of biodegradable oil over the sea's surface could prevent or at least weaken hurricanes as it will severely limit the amount of evaporation that occurs. So there could be a silver lining to this spill.

    No references or links unfortunately, just hazy memories of lectures long ago.
  4. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Hurricanes do not suck things up into the air, that's a tornado.
  5. Really? Crazy! I thought they could suck water up into the air drafts.
  6. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes.
  7. mgb_phys

    mgb_phys 8,809
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's the evaporation of warm sea water and it's condensation as it rises that releases the energy to power a hurricane.
    So although they don;t suck up things (as evo said) it is still ultimately rising water that created them.

    There have been a few proposals to prevent hurricanes forming by cooling the surface sea water by pumping up cold deeper water (some saner than others).
    The area of the oil slick is probably too small to have any significant effect on a hurricane forming and the slick is pretty close to land - by the time a hurricane gets that near to shore it has all the energy it needs.

    There might be an small steering effect if the evaporation above the slick is smaller. Hopefully not or there will be a demand to release oil into the gulf every summer to divert hurricanes !!!
  8. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    Big slick close to land, who knows how much partially-dispersed stuff (oil and dispersants) under the surface - a storm-surge from a decent-size hurricane could make a real mess.
  9. So waterspouts don't suck water up? What happens if waterspouts collide with hurricanes?

    I'm sorry but it really does seem like oil particles will be carried inland by hurricanes....but how many, and to what extent is anybodies guess.
  10. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,094
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Surely a great deal of oil would be atomized in sea spray and carried by the wind, in the event of a large storm.

    In order to get an idea of where the oil might go due to storms, it might be useful to compare storm surge maps, with maps of the most productive wetlands. You can select by location and storm category, at the link below the image.

    For example
  11. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,094
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    One can watch for the storm trigger, by watching the temps from the NW coast of Africa, over and up into the Gulf of Mexico. Once the sea temps get up into the eighties, the storm activity should start. Consistent with the indicated water temps, hurricane season starts next Tuesday.

  12. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    This is for a hurricane hitting LA? I lived on the Gulf for 29 years and rode out a couple of hurricanes, one was a Cat 5, the waves that come in do not go far inland at all, we're talking yards in most cases. The rest of the water is from rain.

    If it hit really low wetlands, not sure what would happen. Remember the hurricane is circular, and you have to take into consideration which direction it is coming from, hurricanes can behave very erratically. I think there are no calculations for sea spray since it has never really been an issue.
    Last edited: May 28, 2010
  13. That sounds about right.
  14. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    I think storm can be to some extent beneficial, as it disperses the oil and aerates water, making it easier to degrade hydrocarbons.
  15. In response to the OP.
    Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
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