Oil spill won't have any impact on tropical storms, experts say

For all of its size and potential destruction, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill isn't likely to have any impact on tropical storms, experts say.

At most, a swath of oil could temporarily delay storm formation, said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Tropical cyclone formation requires substantial amounts of atmospheric moisture. A big enough oil slick theoretically could block evaporation of moisture, in turn thwarting or reducing the likelihood of tropical storm formation, he said.

But this impact would happen only when winds are less than 39 mph, the strength of a minimal tropical storm.

"Once you got a tropical storm, that's no longer a factor," he said.

In fact, tropical storms are more likely to affect the oil slick than the slick is likely to affect tropical storms, experts say.

An oil slick would have no impact on a hurricane's path, storm surge or intensity.

Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist of Weather Underground, says he expects the slick to stick around for a few months. The oil won't stand up to a hurricane, which has winds of at least 74 mph.

"A hurricane is so large and so strong that the relatively small size of this oil spill is not going to make a difference," he said.

Masters said the oil also would not have significant effect on water temperatures, which need to be about 80 degrees for hurricane formation.

A hurricane, in turn, would significantly dilute the oil, but it also could scatter the goo over a wider area, Masters said.

Oil spill won't have any impact on tropical storms, experts say 05/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 9:07am]

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