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NOAA prediction of active hurricane season portends inland oil damage

June 2nd, 2010

From Green Right Now Reports

Talk about insult after injury. This year, the U.S. can expect a more active hurricane season, in which drifting oil and highs winds could conspire to slap the Gulf of Mexico coast with black storm waves, smearing the spilled BP oil far inland and complicating hurricane clean ups.

It could “blanket all of south Louisiana, not only killing the marsh, but contaminating where we sit right now, the football field, the high school, so it wouldn’t just be a cleanup from water. … I don’t know if we’d ever clean it up,” Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser told CNN.

Nungesser speaks from experience — Hurricane Katrina brought spilled oil ashore as it damaged offshore oil rigs. The potential black storm surges also are mentioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Storms’ surges may carry oil into the coastline and inland as far as the surge reaches. Debris resulting from the hurricane may be contaminated by oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident, but also from other oil releases that may occur during the storm,” NOAA notes in a fact sheet on how oil and hurricanes interact.

NOAA points out that it would not “rain” oil during a storm because hurricanes drop rain from condensation higher in the atmosphere and also finds a silver lining in this black picture: “The high winds and seas will mix and “weather” the oil which can help accelerate the biodegradation process.”

NOAA’s  Climate Prediction Center expects an “active to extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year, according a statement released last week.

Hurricane Ike, 2008 (Photo: NOAA)

Hurricane Ike, 2008 (Photo: NOAA)

The center, a division of the National Weather Service, is forecasting that the six-month hurricane season, which began June 1, will bring:

  • 14 to 23 Named Storms, which have top winds of 39 miles per hour or higher.
  • 8 to 14 of those storms will be hurricanes, with winds topping 74 mph.
  • 3 to 7 of those hurricanes could be considered major hurricanes — Category 3, 4 or 5 — with winds exceeding 111 mph.

Scientists said these predictions have a 70 percent probability of coming true. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., said that would make this season one of the more active on record.

“We urge everyone to be prepared,” she said.

The Climate Prediction Center pointed to several factors that could contribute to a more active hurricane season, including upper atmosphere winds that are conducive to maintaining storms and warm Atlantic Ocean water in areas where hurricanes form.



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