Broward News

Has Oil Entered Gulf Stream, Reached Fort Lauderdale?

Yesterday, a Fort Lauderdale-based yacht captain was boating about 12.5 miles offshore from Port Everglades when he and his passengers noticed the oil slick pictured above.  According to the captain, the slick was about a half-mile long. It was unlike anything he had seen in years on the water. He collected a water sample.

He wondered: Could it be from the oil spill in the Gulf?

The Juice contacted several scientists from the University of South Florida.

Two scientists say findings of oil along the southeastern coast would be consistent with their predictions. USF researcher Dr. Yonggang Liu is an expert on circulation patterns in the Gulf.  He says that "from satellite and radar images, [my colleague Dr. Chuanmin Hu] spotted some surface oil in Florida Strait on 6/6 and 6/7."  

The Florida Straits are the narrow waters that run between the Florida Keys and Cuba's northern shore. A current brings water from the Gulf of Mexico through the Straits to the Atlantic Ocean. Liu says that "small oil patches are now in the Gulf Stream flowing eastward to the Atlantic."

He pointed to a USF webpage that includes forecasting of the oil spill based on various models. Notice the purple line working its way up the east coast of Florida.

Liu says that the yacht captain's evidence could be very helpful in confirming whether oil has already worked its way around the peninsula. Satellite imagery, he says, detects only oil patches of considerable size.

Liu's colleague Dr. Hu wrote in an email that "when we reported suspected oil sheen patches in the Florida Straits on 6/6/2010, Florida Fish and Wildlife Convervation Commission (FWC) and the US Coast Guard wouldn't believe it. Yesterday I worked with them and asked them to fly an aircraft in the Straits to the predicted oil location (1.5 m/s current speed), but they didn't find anything. But observing oil sheen from air requires some degree of sun glare, so I am not sure if the aircraft missed them, or what we observed from satellites were something else."

He said that the captain's observation "is extremely important" and is currently trying to arrange for the water sample to be tested. 

But a third scientist warned that "it is very hard to fingerprint this oil without a lot of time, money, and experience." Representatives from the Coast Guard did not immediately return a call for comment.

In other oil-related rumblings today, fears were raised about two more possible oil leaks in the Gulf. 

Stay tuned.


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Deirdra Funcheon