Florida Latin Connection: FL Oil Spill Threats

Florida’s Gulf Coast and Oil Spill Threats…

Numerous articles continue to be written about oil exploration off the coast of Cuba. Some federal officials, while discussing potential spill mitigation, claim that the swift currents of the Gulf Stream will protect South Florida by carrying most oil away before it could hit the beaches. Is this correct, or might a threat to South Florida’s beaches exist, given a drilling mishap?

The Gulf Stream indeed is swift, but if it isolated Florida from Cuba, then how did so many Cuban rafters reach the shoreline between Miami and Palm Beach over the past 50 years? To address this and the potential for oil to reach the Florida coastline, it is important to consider the Gulf Stream in its entirety.

There are two primary components of flow. The first, driven by the large-scale winds over the Atlantic Ocean, is geostrophic. The second is driven by local winds. Neglecting eddies, the geostrophic part alone would tend to isolate Cuba from Florida because it would be difficult for surface oil picked up on the Cuban side of the Gulf Stream to traverse across the region of maximum speed to the Florida side. However, the local wind-driven part can achieve this. (TBT/Weisberg)

Florida Latin Connection/ Arnoldo Varona, Editor 



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