It diverts hurricanes away from northeast Florida. The Gulf Stream may possibly keep the oil spill away from northeast Florida’s shoreline, as well as southeast Georgia.
A computer simulation of the “likely dispersal pathway” of the oil (produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research –NCAR, WATCH THE VIDEO) is encouraging for this neck of the woods. It appears Amelia Island and neighboring gem, Cumberland Island, Georgia, may escape this environmental disaster. But only time will tell for sure.
Cumberland Island, across the Cumberland Sound from Fernandina Beach, Florida, is a national treasure, America’s largest wilderness island — a priceless a National Seashore.
One thing is for sure, though. We all wish we never heard the words “loop current,” “tar balls,” and “dispersants.”
If you’d like to know the likelihood as a percentage, of oil impacting certain coastal cities, you’ll be interested in taking a look at Accuweather’s probabilities data.
PROBABILITY OF OIL REACHING SPECIFIC COASTAL LOCATIONS, INCLUDING THE U.S. EASTERN SEABOARD
Accuweather has produced an oil impact probability chart for coastal cities (June 8, 2010), published by Accuweather staff writer Carly Porter. The Jacksonville, Florida area has the lowest probability of oil impacting its coast of all Florida cities on the chart: zero chance within a week, zero chance within a month, 1% chance over the next 60 days, 2% chance over the next 90 days, and 3% chance over the next 120 days (see link to probability chart at end of article). Note that Montauk, Long Island in New York, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Atlantic City, New Jersey all have a 1% probability of coastal oil impact over the next 120 days, according to Accuweather’s data.
WATCH COMPUTER SIMULATION VIDEO BELOW (By National Center for Atmospheric Research)
The oil is expected to take the path of the Gulf Stream which runs along the Florida east coast but at varying distances from the shoreline, running along the edge of the continental shelf. One might think of the Gulf Stream as a “Guardian Angel” of Amelia Island when hurricanes approach. Once the storms hit the Gulf Stream, hurricanes tend to then follow the strong current and shift northeasterly away from Amelia Island. The Gulf Stream is around 60 miles off Amelia Island’s eastern shoreline — northeast Florida is the farthest distance between the coast and the strong current of any region along the entire eastern coast of Florida. This northeast Florida area around Jacksonville has only experienced one named hurricane in the last 100 years, a Category 2, Dora that passed by in 1964.
Of course, it’s still very early in this oil spill event (even though we approach the two-month mark of the disaster in the Gulf). There are changing weather factors such as wind direction, that can alter the path of the weathered oil. (The Accuweather website suggests that if oil enters the Gulf Stream it would be “mostly in the form of tar balls” but it should move “swiftly up the Atlantic Seaboard”.) Changing weather patterns can alter the oil’s path, not unlike the “cone of uncertainty,” we hear about when it comes to forecasting the path of a hurricane. It’s not an exact science. And nobody knows how the chemical dispersants used will impact fishing, sea creatures, and wildlife. The Florida Department of Agriculture has a website with updates on the Florida seafood industry, and a hotline has been set up (800) 357-4273 due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
But for local folks here in the Amelia Island area and the thousands who love to vacation here at Amelia Island’s beach cottages, hotels, oceanfront condos and luxury golf resorts, there’s good news in the computer simulation and probability chart. Not to be looking at this through rose-colored glasses, but the coast is clear for now, and it possibly may stay that way here in northeast Florida. Let’s hope for the best, but be prepared to deal with whatever comes our way, if it does.
Main Beach Park, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida
I spent an afternoon enjoying the beach in Fernandina yesterday. Blue skies dotted with clouds, warm ocean waters around 80 degrees. Soaking in the sunshine, the salt air, sand between my toes — everything that makes Amelia Island’s shoreline a wonderful, welcoming haven for relaxation. This time, though, with a renewed appreciation of its natural beauty.
Amelia Island is a cool place to be, literally, being the most northerly location on Florida’s east coast. As far as Florida goes, average summer temps on this northeast barrier island are the coolest in the state of Florida, thanks to the island’s cooling sea breezes. (Even just driving off the barrier island onto the adjacent mainland a few miles, you’ll see digital car thermometers jump up 5 degrees in no time during the hot summer months.)
Amelia Island, Florida View Looking Across Cumberland Sound To Cumberland Island, Georgia
Although we are seeing the images on TV, it’s still hard to believe that on the opposite coast in the north Florida panhandle, Floridians have been dealing with tar balls washing ashore. But that pales in comparison to the nightmare Louisiana folks are dealing with (and will be for a long, long time), especially when it comes to the highly sensitive marshland areas. And the spill continues to spew thousands of barrels a day from the merky ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico.
Reportedly, Amelia Island and other areas of northeast Florida are getting additional vacation bookings from travelers who are switching coasts. It appears hotel rooms are being booked by folks that normally don’t come to northeast Florida. One has to empathize with fellow Floridians in the tourism and fishing industries on the Gulf side of the state, and with folks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, closest to the source and bearing the brunt of the disaster, currently. They have very personal losses in the place they call home — their beaches, marshes, their way of life and economies. It’s so very sad for these folks especially, but the U.S.A. as a whole.
NOAA issues daily updates of Deepwater Horizon oil spill trajectory forecast maps looking out 24 to 72 hours. See the latest 3-day oil impact map which shows if oil is anticipated to impact any coastal areas. Lately, a ” large clockwise eddy has pinched off the main Loop Current (LC),” according to the NOAA website which appears to be positive news currently for the U.S. Atlantic coastal area, for keeping the spill away.
The animation above shows one scenario of how oil released at the location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico may move in the upper 65 feet of the ocean. This animation was produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and collaborators. This is not a forecast, but illustrates a likely dispersal pathway of the oil for roughly four months following the spill (i.e. April 20 through August 20, 2010). See additional oil spill animations.
With a background in publishing, financial services, and real estate, Wendy is Amelia Island Living & Travel's digital content editor (including photography and social media channels). A nature lover, birding and biking enthusiast, she has lived on Amelia Island 20 years (a transplant from NY). eMail: contact@AmeliaIslandLiving.com. 904-206-7280.