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OMG! Predicting the Path of an Oil Spill

This colorful model can tell you how deep the ocean is, the direction of the surface winds, and how the currents are moving. OMG, indeed.

It’s not what you’re thinking: in this case OMG stands for Ocean Modeling Group. The group is led by Dr. Ruoying He and if you want to know the latest on where the oil from the BP spill may end up, then He is your go-to guy.

He, a professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, is working with NC State’s high performance computing initiative (HPC) to provide ocean current predictions for the Gulf. He and the OMG team have created a model of ocean circulation that gives an “ocean weather” nowcast and 84-hour forecast.  The NC State ocean model is updated daily and is one of four models used by NOAA in its official oil trajectory prediction.

The latest “ocean weather” prediction is located here.  Take a moment to acclimate yourself to its somewhat psychedelic appearance, and I’ll tell you how to read it.  The flashing colors, from red to blue, represent the height of sea level and the motion of the tides.  Those little purple arrows you see indicate surface winds, and the darker the purple, the higher the wind speed.  The black arrows show the directional flow of ocean surface currents—and that clockwise rotation in the center of the Gulf is called the loop current.  Notice how the arrows leave the loop current and travel around Florida and up the eastern coast of the U.S.?  That’s where the oil may go if it enters and follows the loop current.

Want more information?  NOAA’s oil trajectory prediction is located here . Just scroll down to the “current trajectory maps” heading on this page to see the latest updates.