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Long Term Effect of Oil Spill = Ice Age?

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posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 10:38 AM
I'll preface this with a quick note that I'm not a Marine Scientist or anything like that. But I have been wondering about how this whole thing could have long term affects that are not on the forefront of the news and media cycle.

So here goes:

Global Temperatures are - in large part - moderated and controlled by surface currents. As I understand it surface currents are those currents that are only applied to the water as deep as 400m or so.

Surface currents make up about ten percent of all of the ocean's water. These currents are represented by the top 400 meters of the ocean. The deeper water currents, Thermohaline circulation, make up the other ninety percent. These waters are driven by density and gravity forces, largely affected by different temperatures and salinity.

Ocean Currents

The amount of oil that is currently being released into the ocean is above and beyond the "normal" surface seepage that occurs naturally. And because it's oil it has a lower specific gravity and thus it's moving up to the surface rather than sinking.

Typical oil behavior on water surfaces is to spread out into a slick:

When oil is spilled in the ocean, it initially spreads in the water (primarily on the surface), depending on its relative density and composition. The oil slick formed may remain cohesive, or may break up in the case of rough seas. Waves, water currents, and wind force the oil slick to drift over large areas, impacting the open ocean, coastal areas, and marine and terrestrial habitats in the path of the drift. Read more: Oil Spills: Impact on the Ocean - sea, effects, temperature, percentage, important, largest, types, source, marine, oxygen, human

Oil Spills

So with this being said - I started wondering about what the effects of oil on the surface of water would do and found this interesting nugget out:
Oil on the surface of water reduces the effect that wind has on it and actually calms the water significantly... but we're not exactly sure why or how:

The calming effect of oil on water has been known since ancient times. Benjamin Franklin was the first to investigate the effect, but the underlying mechanism for this striking phenomenon remains elusive.

American Journal of Physics

Sailors who traditionally dumped barrels of oil into the sea to calm stormy waters may have been on to something, a new study suggests.

Then this video shows you more plainly what exactly I'm talking about:

So, with knowing what we do about currents and their effects on weather - and knowing what kind of effect surface oil can have on water and more importantly on the wind's ability to push the water...

I figured I'd look at the Gulf Stream Current

The most famous current is the Gulf Stream, which was discovered by Benjamin Franklin. The Gulf Stream starts in the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator. The steady winds near the Equator are always blowing partly from the east. They push the warm, salty water past the Caribbean islands into the great bay made by Florida and the east coast of the United States. The water piles up and then flows northward past Cape Hatteras. Here the Gulf Stream is narrow and flows swiftly. Its speed is several miles an hour.
Gulf Stream

Surface currents like the Gulf Current are primarily wind driven -

Surface ocean currents are generally wind driven and develop their typical clockwise spirals in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise rotation in the southern hemisphere because of the imposed wind stresses. In wind driven currents, the Ekman spiral effect results in the currents flowing at an angle to the driving winds.

- so what happens when it slows down? How does the balance of the counter current underneath it become effected?

These currents also affect temperatures throughout the world. For example, the current that brings warm water up the north Atlantic to northwest Europe stops ice from forming by the shores
- Same wiki link from above.

Typically this has only be evaluated from the standpoint of Global Warming. Researchers have proposed that melting glaciers would introduce an abundance of fresh water into the stream that could interrupt it's flow.

But what if oil on the surface minimizes the natural forces of wind to push that current and then the balance is put out of sync?

If the Gulf Stream malfunctions, then Europe, deprived of its effects, will in turn lurch towards a new era of lower temperatures. In other words, winters in Lisbon may become as rigorous as those in New York.

RTD Info

I'm not saying this WILL happen, I'm even going to say it's pretty far fetched - and I'm definitely no expert...

But THIS is the kind of stuff I worry about in the BP scenario. Things that we've not even thought of yet. We're playing in completely uncharted waters (no pun intended) here and I don't think ANYONE has a clue what this is going to look like in the future.

posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 11:16 AM
This is why they spraying... to keep the oil down below the surface

posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 11:26 AM
Their reasons for spraying though are nothing to do with the way it will react with weather, they want to keep it under the water surface to hide from people how bad the spill really is.

The oil could have been skimmed off the top easier if they hadn't been spraying the dispersant.

edit to add

[edit on 6-7-2010 by snowspirit]

posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 11:36 AM
Do you think they'll be able to spray enough dispersant - or skim enough - off the surface to keep it from having an adverse effect though? Especially in the part of the stream where it's only 65m wide?

posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 06:04 PM
Hmm, I was thinking it would have the opposite effect.

when you use light colored materials on a roof top it can cool it down significantly. Dark colors do the opposite, absorb more rays from sunglight instead of reflecting them.

posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 07:24 PM

Originally posted by snowspirit

Their reasons for spraying though are nothing to do with the way it will react with weather, they want to keep it under the water surface to hide from people how bad the spill really is.

The oil could have been skimmed off the top easier if they hadn't been spraying the dispersant.

edit to add

[edit on 6-7-2010 by snowspirit]

I'm not entirely convinced of that. IT may be true, but considering it will take DECADES to 'skim' all the oil out of the water, i can see the argument for hastening the crude's decomposition (right word?) by microbes and whatnot.

No, I am NOT saying corexitt is benign. Just saying there is possibly a logical reason for using it beyond keeping it out of public view.

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