Rock you like a hurricane
June 2, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Hurricane season began yesterday, and NOAA is predicting a banner year in the Atlantic. What does this mean for the oil spill? Obama's point man says it will be "touch and go."

a couple more links to tide you over until Nov 30, when the season officially ends:

  • 2010 worldwide hurricane names

  • Detailed description of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale

  • Tropical cyclone imagery archive

  • NASA animation of hurricane formation

  • History of the hurricane cocktail
  • posted by troika (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

     
    touch and go
    touch and go
    when shall the hole be whole
    posted by clavdivs at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2010


    Just returned from three weeks on vacation and can't believe there is still no end in sight for this nightmare.
    posted by bearwife at 11:45 AM on June 2, 2010


    What does this mean for the oil spill?

    Obligatory.
    posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:50 AM on June 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


    One of the first comments on that blog is great:

    It's 100% Obama's Fault... Under the Bush administration hurricanes were smaller, now we are going to have these Huge ObamaCanes and they are going to be CRaZy!!! Not to mention that oil leak that Obama started. If it was bush bush would have sent the Navy Seals to plug that hole.

    posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:51 AM on June 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


    For convenience, here's a cross-link to the latest still open thread on the oil spill.

    As a Gulf coast resident myself, I can't say I'm feeling especially good about this hurricane season, whether it ends up being as bad as the 2005 season or not.
    posted by saulgoodman at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2010


    We found a sinkhole in our back hand just a few days before I came across this story. I'm hoping this hurricane season doesn't bring stuff like that with it.
    posted by saulgoodman at 11:55 AM on June 2, 2010


    erm, "back yard," not "back hand" of course.
    posted by saulgoodman at 11:55 AM on June 2, 2010


    Reporter: Dr. Scientist! The "Top Kill" has failed! What's the worst-case scenario for the gulf?
    Dr. Scientist: The worst-case scenario is what's happening now.
    Reporter: Yes, but is there any way it could get worse?
    Dr. Scientist: Sure, but there are real disasters happening now, and you're substituting speculation and voyerism for the investigative journalism we --
    Reporter: Screw this! Let's ask Michael Bay.

    Jeff Masters (of Weather Underground) writes on a potential hurricane and the oil spill, much wordier and fewer graphics than the Weather.com presentation.
    posted by filthy light thief at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    If it was bush bush would have sent the Navy Seals to plug that hole.

    I wish Bush would send himself to plug the hole.
    posted by blucevalo at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2010


    XKCD as first linked by Civil_Disobedient
    posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2010


    It seems like our life on the planet is pretty much "touch and go" from here on out...
    posted by mrgrimm at 12:03 PM on June 2, 2010


    Sure, but there are real disasters happening now, and you're substituting speculation and voyerism for the investigative journalism we --

    On the one hand, lol, yes, they totally do that.

    On the other hand, failing to speculate on future catastrophes is exactly how we got into this mess.
    posted by DU at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    What does this mean for the oil spill?

    I think it's quite obvious what this means:

    Oil + lightning + hurricane = giant fire hurricanes.
    posted by TBAcceptor at 12:07 PM on June 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


    So the Huricane cocktail is 1 part rum to 1 part syrup with .25 parts lemon?

    It looks nice in the glass, but damn that sounds cloying.
    posted by paisley henosis at 12:07 PM on June 2, 2010


    How far back would a Gulf hurricane set back the relief well completion date? Into September? October?
    posted by The Straightener at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2010


    Oil + lightning + hurricane = giant fire hurricanes.

    I wondered about this too, but apparently, it isn't that likely, as explained in this passage from filthy light thief's second link up here:
    Could a lightning strike from a hurricane ignite oil from the spill, and the hurricane's winds hurl the flaming oil inland, creating a fiery maelstrom of water, wind, and flame? This would make a great scene in a typical bad Hollywood disaster movie, but it's not going to happen with the universe's current laws of physics. Lightning could set an oil slick on fire, in regions where the oil is most dense and very fresh. About 50-70% of the evaporation of oil's most flammable volatile compounds occurs in the first 12 hours after release, so fresh oil is the most likely to ignite. However, the winds of a hurricane are so fierce that any surface oil slick of flaming oil would quickly be disrupted and doused by wave action and sea spray. Heavy rain would further dampen any lightning-caused oil slick fires.
    posted by saulgoodman at 12:10 PM on June 2, 2010


    You would think that by now the mega-oil industry would have the capacity to tether huge subsea bladders rather than rely on surface craft.
    posted by ahimsakid at 12:11 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


    that blog comment, it is brilliant.

    Beware th' ObamaCane, my son!
    The jaws that spin; th' Afric drum!
    Beware the Marxic bird, and shun
    The slazish Welfaremum!

    posted by tivalasvegas at 12:13 PM on June 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


    I wish XKCD was still funny.
    posted by gurple at 12:21 PM on June 2, 2010


    Foreign Policy changed the title of their blog post. Last night it was "Is it Too Early to Blame Obama for Hurricane Season?" (which it still is called as one of the featured links below the post).
    posted by plastic_animals at 12:24 PM on June 2, 2010


    I wish telling people that stuffs not funny was still funny
    posted by Mick at 12:27 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Am I evil for hoping the hurricane that will have my name be a doozy? Go, Alex, go! Whip up that oily water good.
    posted by Space Coyote at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2010


    Am I evil for hoping the hurricane that will have my name be a doozy? Go, Alex, go! Whip up that oily water good.

    My name is Andrew. It's not as exciting as you would think.
    posted by Pope Guilty at 12:29 PM on June 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


    I wondered about this too, but apparently, it isn't that likely, as explained in this passage

    You're no fun, what with your facts and all.
    posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on June 2, 2010


    I'm certain that Jeff Masters is a good meteorologist, but his knowledge of oil behavor is speculation that's not well-grounded, imo. I stand by my previous comment in that last thread when this came up there.

    The NOAA information in the weather.com link in the post is based on assessments from what happened during Katrina, Ivan and others in the past few years, all of which produced oil slicks from pipeline and platform damage.

    The primary effect on the spill with be the interruption in operations, in my opinion. Large storms tend to clean or flush shorelines and disperse oil. Storms can also cause increased formation of oil-sediment particles, which can increase tarball formation or cause the oil to sink. The deepwater plumes are too deep to be greatly affected by storms, as I understand it. I'm not a meteorologist, but the ocean mixing depth of even a big storm is still well above the level these plumes have been reported at.
    posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 12:39 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    My name is Andrew. It's not as exciting as you would think.

    But people have a ready nickname if you ever storm into a room. I bet that's not annoying at all.
    posted by Space Coyote at 12:39 PM on June 2, 2010


    Speaking as someone who has lived in hurricane-prone areas and lost a home to one, I hate the yearly NOAA pronouncements about how many storms there will be, and the media attention paid to them. Don't get me wrong, I love NOAA. I love the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center and all the great things they do for me. I just don't get these predictions. Outside of EMS and disaster mitigation circles I don't see the the utility. I don't have hard data, but it always seems to me like they're wrong. To most folks, it really doesn't matter if scientists guess there are going to be 5 named storms this summer or 15. What matters to people is when one of those storms is bearing down on your location. I guess it's just the way people in our media culture do things. It's day 2 of hurricane season and the scientists and bureaucrats know they'll get some attention and spotlight time, so let's do the fuckin' storm-scare report, eh hurricane experts?
    posted by BeerFilter at 12:45 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    You're no fun, what with your facts and all.

    I know, I know... But in my defense, I'd humbly submit that the more sensational, less factual scenario is a lot less fun to entertain when you and your family are potentially living directly in the path of said counterfactual, ginormous, category 11, fire-spitting Obamacane. Turns out, in certain rare circumstances, facts can actually be a source of comfort, too. Who knew?

    posted by saulgoodman at 12:48 PM on June 2, 2010


    a couple more links to tide you over

    I see what you did there.
    posted by SPUTNIK at 12:56 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


    i am terrified of a hurricane plus an oil spill.
    posted by edouble2nyc at 12:56 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Comforting facts are un-American! I demand baseless speculation and rampant declarations of doom! DOOM I SAY!

    Humorous intent withdrawn in event of actual doom.
    posted by Babblesort at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


    It's the storm surge, scientists say, that would bring the Gulf oil inland. But scientists say the oil would not leave as the storm surge recedes back into the Gulf. The contaminated residue would remain. It paints a picture of the cleanup as complex at best, with public health and insurance issues making a Gulf storm that much more dangerous. (CNN)
    posted by mattbucher at 1:12 PM on June 2, 2010


    I've got one question:

    There's over 4,000 oil wells in the gulf. How many of them have inadequate/nonexistent safety measures, and why the heck hasn't Obama ordered a comprehensive safety review of all 4,000 with the end in mind of finding all problems and forcing the oil companies to fix them ASAP? We've got one leak already, you'd think taking steps to prevent a second would be a darn good idea.
    posted by sotonohito at 1:17 PM on June 2, 2010


    Derail, re: Hurricane Naming: Nope, no Hurricane Craig for the foreseeable future (MAYBE if Huricane Colin does justice to Mr. Mochrie's image, they'll retire that name, but everybody knows they'll pick Conan before Craig). However last year, they used Craig for a Hurricane drill in Alabama; another reason for me to hate Alabama (they can't even spell 'catastrophic' right).

    Double Derail, re: Alabama: The election is over and Dale Peterson came in third, giving me a little bit of hope for the electoral process, even in Alabama.
    posted by oneswellfoop at 1:18 PM on June 2, 2010


    Can you say emulsification?

    I knew you could!
    posted by Danf at 1:24 PM on June 2, 2010


    and why the heck hasn't Obama ordered a comprehensive safety review of all 4,000 with the end in mind of finding all problems and forcing the oil companies to fix them ASAP?

    It's my understanding he has ordered a comprehensive safety review of all off shore drilling rigs, including the regulatory regime at the MMS. That's part of why the MMS is being reorganized. Here's one cite. Here's another specifically about the safety review.
    posted by saulgoodman at 1:27 PM on June 2, 2010


    More great news: Oil came ashore in Alabama today.
    posted by saulgoodman at 1:28 PM on June 2, 2010


    In related news, the second strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Arabian Sea is about to wallop Oman.
    posted by troika at 1:34 PM on June 2, 2010


    I've got one question: ...

    whatever else they do or do not do, mms conducts periodic inspections of the rigs in the gulf. how well they do it is perhaps up for discussion, but the inspections are done. not always scheduled, as i recall.

    do the math: sending teams of inspectors to 4k rigs would cost, literally, a fortune. also remember that the people who work on those rigs, for the most part, don't want to die. it's in their interest & the operating company's best interest to keep everyone alive & the well producing.

    i'm not saying that they're all 100% safe and in truth i've never been on one so i can't say much of anything about their condition; i am saying that there are considerations that perhaps would make it unnecessary to go to that extreme.
    posted by msconduct at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I wish XKCD was still funny.

    I was thinking more along the lines of having it canceled and its creators sent to work in a Foxconn factory along with 99% (randomly selected) of all other webcomic creators, but your idea is good too.
    posted by hamida2242 at 1:48 PM on June 2, 2010


    Can you say emulsification?

    Storms will definitely do that. Really high sea states are more likey to form oil-in-water emulsions, rather than water-in-oil. That's a big difference.

    This reddish brown goop: at sea, close-up, floating blobs (those are about fist-sized), that's water-in-oil emulsion. It's sticky, hard to clean off things and generally nasty to handle. Emulsified water-in-oil can have large effects on wildlife, gets hung up on beaches and in marshes and is hard to remove.

    Oil-in-water dispersions are what's more likely to be formed by a high-energy hurricane. Above a certain shear energy, oil looses it's cohesiveness and begins to fragment into small droplets. That results in a plume of dispersed oil, which tends to get driven down in the water by the storm. Sediment, stirred up by the storm, readily attaches to dispersed oil droplets. The oil-sediment droplets are usually much less than 1 mm in size. These oil-sediment particles can remain in the water and biodegrade; they can start banging together, which usually results in tarballs; or they get too much sediment and sink to the bottom.

    Dispersed oil which biodegrades is destroyed, metabolized by microbes and no longer a problem.

    Tarballs can cause wildlife deaths and get stranded on shores, but they're generally much less sticky and much less toxic than the red-brown mousse. They can last for a long time though, years.

    Sea-floor organisms can injest sunken oil, and sunken oil can leach low levels of toxins for many years. Concentrations tend to be low. However, the effects of the sunken oil on the benthic and demersal organisms is one of the big unknowns right now.
    posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:56 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Of all the names of that list for this year, I've got a feeling that Hurricane Earl will be the one we'll hear the most about.
    posted by Webbster at 1:57 PM on June 2, 2010


    However, the effects of the sunken oil on the benthic and demersal organisms is one of the big unknowns right now.

    i have a feeling we're going to know a whole helluva lot more about it when this is finally over.
    posted by msconduct at 2:16 PM on June 2, 2010


    Does anyone know how much potential oil is actually down in this well? Let's say in some extreme even a YEAR from now BP is still dicking around trying to get it plugged. Will there still be any oil left down there at that point or will it have all drained out by that point? Because that seems like the obvious worse case scenario: that no one ever figures out how to stop the leak and it just keeps pumping out until there's nothing left.
    posted by squeakyfromme at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2010


    I hope to god Louisiana is spared this year. I hope that every year, but this year especially. We've got enough to deal with.

    Although I guess if we keep heading down the path we are on and get a few more storms, I'll soon have Gulf-front property in Baton Rouge.
    posted by tryniti at 3:33 PM on June 2, 2010


    The relief well for the BP oil volcano is already targeting a late August date, and that is only if things go perfectly.

    The earliest the well will be stopped, then, is probably October. And that's if things go pretty good. This thing could easily be puking oil 'til Christmas.
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:20 PM on June 2, 2010


    Does anyone know how much potential oil is actually down in this well?

    50 million barrels (wiki). bp (prior to the incident) estimated a flow rate of 160,000 bbl/day should the well flow uncontrolled.

    Jefferson Parish wonders whether flood insurance covers oil spill damage

    if it can rain frogs, it can rain oil tainted with dispersant. your insurance company will say 'act of god' each time a hurricane comes through.
    posted by kimyo at 4:28 PM on June 2, 2010


    From here in New Orleans, a sense of the popular mood would be something like: OH MY FUCKING GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. So let's have a barbeque and grill some shrimp while we can still get it.
    posted by localroger at 5:26 PM on June 2, 2010


    "BP's newest method designed to stop the flow ... could increase the leak by 20 percent in the short term."

    Which is BPese for 200 percent.
    posted by Twang at 6:14 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Incidentally, "The Flaming Hurricanes" is the name of my new band.
    posted by Greg_Ace at 7:27 PM on June 2, 2010


    msconduct wrote do the math: sending teams of inspectors to 4k rigs would cost, literally, a fortune.

    More than the cleanup for this one well? We already know that the safety regulations are a joke, that's self evident given that BP was (so far as everyone has claimed) perfectly within regulations. To me that implies that all 4,000+ wells in the gulf are potential failures of this magnitude.

    More to the point, I really don't care how much it costs. That's for the oil industry to pay from its massive profits. What I do care about is ensuring that the next poorly constructed, unsafe, and dangerous rig gets fixed so it isn't going to screw up the gulf more.

    also remember that the people who work on those rigs, for the most part, don't want to die. it's in their interest & the operating company's best interest to keep everyone alive & the well producing.

    Very Randian, but I think this leak proves that line of reasoning is wishful thinking at best. Self evidently that didn't work here. I think its horribly naive to assume that somehow BP was uniquely short sighted and that all 4,000+ wells still operating in the gulf are miracles of safety thanks to the wonderful fact of enlightened self interest.

    Safety costs money that could otherwise be directed into executive "compensation" packages. Ergo safety will be cut to the maximum extent possible.

    We need harsh, expensive, and functional safety guarantees. If such measures make it uneconomical for companies to operate some wells then I think that's probably a good thing. If they can't afford to extract the oil safely then we shouldn't be extracting it.
    posted by sotonohito at 9:46 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    We need harsh, expensive, and functional safety guarantees.

    I agree, but that's not sustainable with the current system. The current government is running on string, gum, and billions of borrowed dollars ... and it still can't regulate effectively. Look at the FDA or EPA (or SEC, FAA ...) ... maybe if we directed some of those TRILLIONS lost in the past 10 years of military bullshit towards something more critical to the future of the planet. Just maybe...

    To me that implies that all 4,000+ wells in the gulf are potential failures of this magnitude.

    Me too. But I also figure it's the deep ones like this one that are the most dangerous, right?

    If they can't afford to extract the oil safely then we shouldn't be extracting it.

    Completely agree. However, after this explosion happened, I vowed never to buy or use another piece of plastic. I lasted about two days.
    posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on June 3, 2010


    We already know that the safety regulations are a joke ...

    i don't know that at all. i know that the initiation of such regulations on an industry might be considered a joke, and that the enforcement of such regulations might be treated as a joke, but that the safety regulations are not, in any way, a joke.

    What I do care about is ensuring that the next poorly constructed, unsafe, and dangerous rig gets fixed so it isn't going to screw up the gulf more.

    no disagreement from me there, except that i'd actually place the immediate loss of human life a tad ahead of the gulf.

    We need harsh, expensive, and functional safety [guarantees].

    i can almost--not quite because i don't have the original text & i'm not going to go looking for it--but almost guarantee you that we do did have not guarantees which is rather impossible, don't you think?, but harsh, expensive, and functional regulations and guidelines. and then the industry and the people who work in the industry say, 'man, this sucks. if we didn't have to do [whatever] we'd [get more stuff faster & make more money doing it].'

    sometimes if those being regulated push back hard enough, whether it's red light traffic cams or pressure-regulating valves on oil rigs (or whatever the failpoint device was), then the lawmakers and regulators start backing off*. and those harsh, expensive, and functional items become namby-pamby & expensive & still functional (and maybe even, on the surface, more expedient). until they're not. and then we have a bunch of people on the internet who amazingly have zero to do with the industry but a vast body of knowledge on the intricacies of the industry come in with eight thousand ideas/per minute on how to fix it.
    except it turns out the fix was there all along, but it just wasn't, you know, convenient.

    * see your comment, More to the point, I really don't care how much it costs and crosscheck that with headlines from a year or two ago screaming GAS TO HIT $4/GAL and check to see how that correlates with the general sentiment on caring about how much something costs.
    posted by msconduct at 7:08 AM on June 4, 2010


    i don't know that at all.

    If the safety regulations had been anything but a joke we wouldn't be having this conversation. They failed, self evidently, to prevent the current disaster they are, therefore, a joke.

    until they're not. and then we have a bunch of people on the internet who amazingly have zero to do with the industry but a vast body of knowledge on the intricacies of the industry come in with eight thousand ideas/per minute on how to fix it.

    I pretend no expertise in this area. But it requires no expertise to know from the outcome of the current regulatory regime, that the current regulatory regime is obviously insufficient either in the regulations themselves, their enforcement, or some other way. If the current regulatory regime had been sufficient to match the risks of the drilling currently being done the disaster would not have happened. You don't have to have a degree in physics to know that it hurts when you drop a rock on your foot, in much the same manner we don't need to know diddly squat about offshore oil drilling to know that somewhere the regulations were either ignored, unenforced, or simply not worth anything.

    I am a great respecter of expertise. It will take expertise to draw up new safety regulations, and it will cost money to hire the necessary experts to enforce those regulations. But it requires no expertise to see that new regulation is desperately needed.

    see your comment, More to the point, I really don't care how much it costs and crosscheck that with headlines from a year or two ago screaming GAS TO HIT $4/GAL and check to see how that correlates with the general sentiment on caring about how much something costs.

    People are notoriously bad at properly evaluating and assessing risk. Yes, Joe American would be upset at increasing gas prices. But the experts tell us that cost of this disaster is likely to be more than we would have paid if we got $4 gas. I'd rather we saw the price for the necessary regulations and their enforcement come out of the overstuffed pockets of the oil execs, but I doubt that will ever happen.
    posted by sotonohito at 8:30 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


    So the flow was guesstimates at circa 15-20kb, and would increase by 20% when the riser was cut. And BP is prepared to suck up 15kb with this latest "fix."

    I'm not seeing the win here. WTF did this accomplish?
    posted by five fresh fish at 7:49 PM on June 4, 2010


    Also, they are pumping shit-tons toxic dispersant.

    I can't help think they are purposely killing the ocean. I can't imagine why.
    posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 PM on June 4, 2010


    I can't help think they are purposely killing the ocean. I can't imagine why.

    they must have determined that there is a greater threat than a dead ocean?
    very little about this whole affair makes any sense.

    maybe the threat is florida without clean water or power this summer?

    Oil Spill Poses Risk to Gulf Power Plants

    oil spill update: tampa bay seawater desalination plant

    OSHA Says Cleanup Workers Don’t Need Breathing Protection: Same Thing They Said For 9/11 Clean Up

    Contradicting BP, feds lay Gulf illnesses to cleaning fluid
    posted by kimyo at 8:34 PM on June 4, 2010


    I can't help think they are purposely killing the ocean. I can't imagine why.

    I wasn't going to mention it, but last year BP got bought out by Pentex.
    posted by Pope Guilty at 8:35 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


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