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Oil forecast grim for So. FL

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5/18/2010 © Health News Florida

Part of the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon explosion could reach the Florida Keys in five to six days and Miami five days after that, according to a forecast prepared by four experts on computer modeling at University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

Forecast of oil slick location on Sunday, May 23

The USF team led by oceanography professor Robert H. Weisberg  sent out a 14-slide presentation late Monday that graphically displays the present and expected movement of the oil. One of those who received the presentation, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, released it today to the media.
  
The oil slick as tracked by satellite imagery shows a long branch of the slick extending to the south, as had been predicted by the team's initial forecast on Saturday.

"Our predicted 'very likely' pattern becomes reality," the team said on one of the slides.

The five computer models involved in the forecast assume that the mammoth spill will be -- or already has been -- pulled into the Loop Current, which would direct it down to the Keys and up the Atlantic Coast.

Their forecast is sure to come up this afternoon as a new round of congressional hearings on the explosion at the drilling rig gets underway. One of the hearings will be at 2:30 p.m. before the Senate Commerce Committee, on which Nelson serves. The head of BP America will testify along with the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“While I always hope for the best, this is looking like really out-of-control bad," Nelson said today, referring to the widening spill and the new research.

Weisberg's preliminary forecast says oil from the spill in the Gulf may reach Key West by Sunday or Monday; the middle Keys by Wednesday of next week; and, Miami a week from Friday. "The southern arm of the oil slick has already been entrained [in], or at least on the edge of, the Loop Current," a summary states.

In addition to Weisberg, the team includes Drs. Yonggang Liu and Lianyuan Zheng, and Professor Cuanmin Hu.