Sunday, 19 December 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Responsible For Europe Wide Freeze?

A recent study has shown that the Gulf stream has weakened significantly in recent times and on July the 28 the Gulf Loop, which is a major influencer of the Gulf Stream stopped completely. This at a time when the  Deepwater Horizon well explosion disaster had finally been capped but not before it had released an estimated 184,000,000 gallons(lower estimates put it at 94,000,000) that's more than 1,000,000 gallons per day even at lower estimate levels. The oil leaked into the Gulf Region for 86 days in total. The gulf stream is essential for keeping the UK and northern Europe mild it is estimated to deliver 1,000,000 power stations worth of energy to northern Europe elevating temperatures in some regions by as much as 10 degrees C. in the UK alone which is as northerly as Moscow it is said to lift temperatures by 6C. Without this warming influence the UK would be in big trouble as its infrastructure is not well suited to cold weather as the recent big freeze has shown with much of the UK grinding to a Holt with foot after foot of snow falling. Government estimates say that this weather is costing the UK economy 1.2billion a day. Worse could be yet to come the UK fresh water pipes are not made to withstand such cold weather unlike in Russia where water pipes are put several feet under ground to prevent freezing. UK pipes are placed much nearer to the surface so are particularly at risk from cracking in freezing conditions.

The Researchers on a recent scientific expedition to monitor the Gulf Stream have observed that it has slowed down by 30% since a similar expedition 12 years ago. Harry Bryden of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton leader of the study said that if the Gulf Stream stays as it is Temperatures in the UK will drop on average by 1C and if the Gulf Stream completely stops then temperatures will drop by 4-6C according to computer models some would say this is a conservative estimate and many believe that the shutting down of the Gulf Stream has been responsible for Ice Ages in the past.

Here is a picture of the Global Conveyor Belt including the Gulf Stream.

Here is a picture of the latest observations of The Gulf Stream Stretching Eastward.

So back to the original Question and title of this post is the oil spill responsible for the weakening of the Gulf Stream and the Europe wide freeze. Well let's look at some further evidence, below is a picture of the Gulf Loop which feeds into the Gulf stream and is a major source of its energy.

The Arrow shows the natural direction of the Gulf Loop as it enters and exits.

Now Here are some Satellite Pictures showing the Oil spill in relation to the Gulf Loop

If we assume from the dates on the satellite imagery from NASA that these pictures were taken no later than the 8th of May then these pictures apply to no later than sixteen days after the 22nd of April the initial date of the Disaster. If we also take the conservative estimate of 1,070,000 gallons of oil a day were leaking into the Gulf then this outline of the oil slick applies to at the most 17,120,000 gallons of oil by the 86th day of the Disaster, July 14th 94,000,000 gallons of oil were spilled. Even at this early stage of the spill it can be clearly seen than the oil spill is interacting with the northern edge of the Loop.

By the 28th of July 14 days after the spill had been capped and the full amount of oil had been leaked the Gulf Loop had broken up and stopped its normal process It would be fair to assume that other than natural phenomenon the increased viscosity in the region affected by an upper most prediction of 184,000,000 gallons of oil and 1,000,000 gallons of cleaning agent had a substantial effect on on the natural cycle of the Gulf Loop.

Here is a picture of the Gulf Loop as it progressively breaks up.

So has this break up affected weather in Northern Europe well it cannot be blamed for all of the unprecedented weather we are experiencing but it is probably a contributing factor the gulf stream is weaker than normal and was so before. The Oil Disaster has definitely not helped matters. Luckily the latest pictures of the Gulf loop show it acting more normally although there is still less general activity in the area of the Oil Disaster itself than this time last year.

With us knowing so little about the Gulf stream and the complex influences that drive it we have to be extremely careful. The Oil spill was a major Catastrophe and its long standing effects on the Gulf Stream we may yet have to wait to see. Sensitive Areas like this that are essential for global climate have to be treated with the utmost respect. I would suggest that the offshore drilling in this area be permanently prevented not just until 2017 as the Obama administration has implemented. The possible Fallout from such disasters is simply too dangerous to risk. We will need a hell of a lot more oil than is under the Gulf to keep us warm if we break the Gulf Stream.

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