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NOAA Observations Indicate a Small Portion of Light Oil Sheen Has Entered the Loop Current

NOAAs latest observations indicate that a small portion of the oil slick has reached the Loop Current in the form of light to very light sheens.

In the time it would take for oil to travel to the vicinity of the Florida Straits, any oil would be highly weathered and both the natural process of evaporation and the application of chemical dispersants would reduce the oil volume significantly. However, the oil may get caught in a clockwise eddy in the middle of the gulf, and not be carried to the Florida Straits at all.

Oil entrained in the Loop Current would require persistent onshore winds or an eddy on the edge of the Loop Current for it to reach the Florida shoreline. If this were to occur, the weathered and diluted oil would likely appear in isolated locations in the form of tar balls.

The Coast Guard has confirmed that the tar balls collected yesterday in the Florida Keys did not originate with the BP oil spill.

Both the location of the Loop Current and location of the oil slick are dynamic and constantly changing. NOAA tracks the location of the surface oil daily through analysis of satellite imagery, observer over flights with helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, as well as advanced sensing technology on aircraft.

The Loop Current is an area of warm water that comes up from the Caribbean, flowing past the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it generally curves east across the Gulf and then flows south parallel to the west Florida Coast, as it flows between Florida and Cuba it becomes the Florida Current as it moves through the Florida Straits, where it finally joins the Gulf Stream as it travels up the Atlantic Coast.

We also continue to assess the contingency plans in potentially impacted areas, and we are working with our state and local partners, as well as BP, as the responsible party, to pre-stage boom and other resources as we have been from the beginning of this response.