Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gulf woes grow as hurricane threat mounts

Jeanna Bryner in LiveScience: With Hurricane Alex churning through the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday and this year's hurricane season forecasted to be an active one, scientists are worried about how the Gulf Coast will fare from the potential wallop it could take. Right now, scientists are predicting that this hurricane season, which officially began on June 1, could be as intense as or worse than in 2005 (the most active Atlantic season ever recorded and the year Hurricane Katrina struck).

This stormy weather has the potential to not only wreak the normal havoc on coastal areas, toppling trees and flooding inland areas, but could worsen the already devastating impact of the BP oil spill on the Gulf, spreading tar balls over a much wider area, as well as across not-yet-hit marshes, according to Ping Wang in the Department of Geology at the University of South Florida. Already, Alex has pushed oil from the spill onto Gulf coast beaches, with some tar balls as large as apples, according to news reports.

There are many unknowns to how the hurricane season could play out, including the location and track of each hurricane, which could impact where the oil ends up and whether the end result actually helps rid the beaches of oil or piles it on. How intense each hurricane will be is also pretty fuzzy, even when a hurricane has fully formed.

"As far as the Gulf and the oil slick, it doesn't take much of a hurricane to make a fairly big difference there in being able to drive oil ashore. Any storm that comes through is not good news," said Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).…

Track map of Tropical Storm Alex, 2010 hurricane season, from June 26, 2010. Created by Titoxd using Wikipedia:WikiProject Tropical cyclones/Tracks. The background image is from NASA. Tracking data from the National Hurricane Center's running best track.

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