From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published June 30, 2010 02:33 PM

Alex in the Gulf

Tropical Storm Alex, the first storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, continues to pick up steam as it crosses the western Gulf of Mexico. It has now reached hurricane proportions. It is fairly centered right now in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes are always a major weather related event especially for those who live in the affected area. In addition, this year we have the BP oil spill to contend with in the same area. What impact Alex and the oil spill will have on each other is far from clear yet.

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A hurricane is a severe tropical cyclone originating in the equatorial regions of the Atlantic Ocean or Caribbean Sea or eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean, traveling north, northwest, or northeast from its point of origin, and usually involving heavy rains. The same storm on land is often called a tornado and in the Indian Ocean this type of storm is called a cyclone.

A cyclone (hurricane) is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth.

According to NOAA's National Hurricane Center, Alex is expected to approach the coast of northeast Mexico and southern Texas on Wed., June 30, and make landfall Wednesday night. The storm is expected to reach a peak intensity of 80 to 85 knots (92 to 98 miles per hour) before landfall, which would make it either a strong Category One or weak Category Two hurricane. Alex's tropical storm-force winds currently extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from its center. The storm is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 30 centimeters (6 to 12 inches) over parts of northeastern Mexico and southern Texas, with isolated amounts up to 20 inches. A storm surge of about 3 to 5 feet above ground level is forecast along the immediate coast near and to the north of where Alex makes landfall. The storm is expected to last a few days in the area until it is completely cleared up.

Alex is projected to head for the Texas/Mexico border region and stay relatively far from the BP spill zone off the Louisiana coast. It is not expected to affect work at the site of the blown out well. However, other operations have been hampered by waves were as high as 12 feet.

The loss of boats doing skimming work combined with 25 miles per hour gusts driving water into the coast has left beaches especially vulnerable. In Alabama, the normally white sand was streaked with long lines of oil. One swath of beach 40 feet wide was stained brown and mottled with globs of oil matted together.

The net effect of Alex on the spill will be a mixed bag. In some places oil will be washed up higher and more extensively onto the land. In the mid-ocean oil patches are more likely to be churned and mixed into smaller globules; some of which will sink. To some degree Alex will help on the cleanup in that it will reduce surface oil effects. However, it will delay any skimming and removal operations.


For further information: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-219&rn=news.xml&rst=2655

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