High chance of hurricane in oil-ravaged Gulf of Mexico
The risk of a hurricane entering the Gulf of Mexico is 10% greater than usual this season, and scientists are unsure how the oil spill will be affected by the storm.
Sat, May 15 2010 at 1:06 PM
As if the mess from hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil weren't enough for Gulf residents to deal with, there's a good chance a hurricane will come along within the next few months and bring more chaos to the region.
According to Yahoo News, experts say there's a 40 percent chance that a big storm could pass over the spill area this season — significantly greater than the usual 30 percent chance.
Such a storm could spread the oil beyond its current reach along the shores of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
"Storm surges may carry oil inland, mixed with hurricane debris," said National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen.
Scientists are unsure exactly how a layer of oil on the surface of the ocean will interact with the winds of a hurricane. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), researchers are trying to determine whether it would weaken or strengthen the storm.
Feltgen believes the oil will hinder the rate of evaporation required to fuel a strong storm, effectively weakening it.
The 2010 hurricane system will be more active than usual this year, with experts predicting 11-16 tropical storms developing in the Atlantic Ocean versus the average nine to 10. Six to eight of those storms will likely develop into hurricanes.
But as devastating as a hurricane would be to the ravaged Gulf Coast, not all of its effects would be negative.
"High winds and seas will mix and 'weather' the oil, which helps accelerate the biodegradation process," notes Feltgen.