Predictions of oil on Atlantic beaches off

Sept. 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Predictions this summer of oil-fouled beaches across Florida and all the way up the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill got it wrong, scientists say.

National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Synte Peacock said that as of Friday there have been no reports of oil or residue from the spill anywhere along the East Coast, USA Today reported.

A June 2 NCAR press release said oil was "likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast within weeks. It can then move north as far as about Cape Hatteras, N.C., with the Gulf Stream."

So where's the oil on the East Coast?

"First of all, we never claimed to be making a forecast," NCAR's Peacock, who worked on the prediction, said. "It was always discussed as a possible scenario. We made it very clear from the outset that it is not possible to predict or forecast ocean currents on timescales of more than days into the future."

The predictions of oil making it all the way around Florida affected the state's tourism this summer, Chris Thompson, CEO of state tourism board Visit Florida, said.

The forecasts planted a "seed of doubt" in potential vacationers' minds, and even now people are still less inclined to travel to Florida because of the spill, he said.

So was the prediction overstated?

No, says Peacock.

"It was just what was stated: a range of possible scenarios for the dispersal. We used the best available climate model to simulate the likely pathways … at the site of the BP spill," she said.

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