The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday "a small portion" of the oil slick resulting from the Deepwater Horizon's explosion last month has reached a current which could transport oil into the Atlantic Ocean. The announcement comes a day after the agency said oil was drifting toward the so-called the Loop Current. Wednesday's slick in the current was called "light to very light sheens."
NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said Tuesday that when oil hits the current, it could reach the Florida strait in eight to 10 days. The Loop Current is an area of warm water that comes up from the Caribbean Sea, and passes the Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf. It then generally curves east across the Gulf and then south toward the west coast of Florida, eventually slipping through the Florida Straits as the Gulf Stream where it continues up into the Atlantic along the East Coast.
If oil enters the current, persistent offshore winds could bring it to Florida's shore, Lubchenco said. Evaporation and natural dispersion will reduce the oil volume significantly in the current, however, changing the nature of the crude and transforming it mainly into tar balls, Lubchenco added.
NOAA said Wednesday that "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."