Image: NASA's Earth Observatory/U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
Oceanic Conveyor Belt
According to Wikipedia, the Loop Current is a "warm ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico that flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatán peninsula, moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, loops west and south before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits." Right now, one of the plausible scenarios for the BP oil spill is that some of the oil would be carried by this current in the direction of Florida and into the Atlantic.
The Gulf Loop Current, a circular stream of warm water that runs through the Gulf of Mexico during the spring and summer, is basically the highway upon which the oil slick would travel. The loop pulls currents from the Caribbean Basin and around the Gulf of Mexico. After water is dragged south and through the Florida Strait, it enters the Atlantic Ocean and joins with the more powerful Gulf Stream.(source)
It's hard to predict when or even if the oil will reach the Loop current, but if the leaks keep on spewing oil for weeks or months, it wouldn't be surprising if it happened sooner or later. By that point the oil might be more spread out and more dilute, so the impact on the shores and water life might be less spectacular, but it could still cause a lot of damage.
Via Discovery News
More on the BP Oil Spill
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