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Atkinson Starts Web Site to Track Possible Effects in Atlantic of Gulf Oil Spill

Larry Atkinson

Old Dominion University oceanographer Larry Atkinson, an expert on the climatology of coastal waters, has developed a Web site to explain possible effects on the East Coast of the oil spill from the damaged British Petroleum drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The site is at: http://www.ccpo.odu.edu/~atkinson/VAMDSpill/.

The good news on the site Monday was that there is "no evidence that oil from the spill is being entrained in the Loop Current (around the southern tip of Florida). Thus the arrival at Cape Hatteras is at least four weeks out if it entered the Loop Current now."

Atkinson was thrust last week into the federal government's effort to track the spill and assess possible damage.

 He was pictured and quoted on the front page of The Virginian-Pilot on Thursday, and news reporters from as far away as Philadelphia have also called to get his take on the threat that the drifting oil might eventually pose to the East Coast.

He has been assessing spill effects as part of his work with the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (MACOORA). He participated in a teleconference with 20 oceanographers scheduled last Friday to discuss the likelihood of weathered oil hitting the beaches of the North Carolina Outer Banks. "This is not likely, but it could happen," Atkinson said.

"We need to make sure that the information we have is available to the federal system," Atkinson said. The Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are heading up the federal government's response to the spill.

Experts in Florida have said that oil from the spill is already moving south toward the tip of Florida, where it could be taken by the Loop Current into the Gulf Stream and reach Virginia waters.

Atkinson is an ODU eminent professor and the Samuel A. and Fay M. Slover Professor of Oceanography.

MACOORA, with a coverage area from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, includes five subregions: Massachusetts and Rhode Island Bay, Long Island Sound, New York Harbor and New York Bight, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. NOAA supports MACOORA and 10 other similar associations in other coastal areas of the country. This new coordinated system springs from the national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Atkinson served a term-funded by the National Science Foundation-as a member of the interagency Ocean.US group that helped to develop IOOS.

This article was posted on: May 6, 2010

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