Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday May 24: BP Oil Spill Update

1. Local Air quality.

The hourly Air Quality Index for Pensacola, including observed particulate matter, can be accessed here. Earlier today, it looked rather normal for this time of year; fair but not good. How much of the particulates in the air may be due to Mother Nature's insistence that flowers and plants continue send their propagating pollen into the air and how much to man's preparations of the planet for the ants we will not hazard a guess.

2. Gulf Coast Oil Forecast.

WKRG-TV out of Mobile has begun posting a useful daily "oil forecast" on its web site, along with links to other important information. For now, it appears, the oil is expected to continue moving primarily "west and south," as you can see and hear below:

3. Pensacola Oil-cast.

As for Pensacola and nearby beaches, three screenshots we took this morning give you some idea of why forecasting the future direction of BP's spreading lake of oil is so tricky. The screenshots are taken from the University of South Florida's "Ocean Circulation Group" web site.

Within the Gulf and along the coast, the mix of winds, surface water currents, and subsurface water currents is complex and sometimes contradictory. Below is the final frame of an animation forecasting prevailing wind direction:

And a second screenshot, below, is the final frame for the same time of an animated forecast for prevailing surface water currents:
Notice how the arrows for wind and water don't always agree?

Finally, below is a screenshot of the subsurface oil measured by as of the end of the animation period, May 27:
To see each of the full animations, and more, visit the web site for USF's "Ocean Circulation Group."

4. Mobile 'Graduation' Day on Pensacola Beach.

On one Sunday in May, every year, a large and predominantly black crowd from Mobile, Alabama, makes the trek to Pensacola Beach. We've written about this before here here and here and here. It's one of the larger events on Pensacola Beach distinguished by crowds of visitors motivated in some way by a particular cultural affinity.

The so-called "Mobile graduation" Sunday ranks right up there on the stress-o-meter of some local residents with the invasion of drunken Bubbas for the Mardi Gras parade; the hormone-driven invasion of college students over Spring Break; and Pensacola Beach's unique "Gay Memorial Day Weekend." We would have added early August's "Bushwhacker Festival," but we're not sure excessive drinking and listening to ear-splitting music is a recognized cultural identity.

This year, the Mobile 'graduation' thing went off without a hitch. The feared violence of past years, the overtly racist reception occasionally experienced by some visitors, and BP's oil spill were not in evidence.

"By 2 p.m.," Thyrie Bland of the PNJ reports, "the crowd remained light and some of the extra deputies assigned to work at the beach Sunday were let go." A few thousand more showed up late in the afternoon, but "it wasn't as big as last year," according to Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Mike Ward.

5. Pensacola Geography Lesson.

The other day we mentioned that a few tarballs washed up on the beach at Ft. Pickens. An estimable neighboring blogger we admire, Rick Outzen, did the same.

One of our readers, another estimable object of our admiration, took umbrage at Rick's referring to the fort as being on "Pensacola Beach." Then he, so we understand, took umbrage at her for taking umbrage.

We were going to ignore the minor contretemps, but then, last night, a question popped up on the Internet Tubes. "Admin" for something called RAEstate ("Consumption and Real Estate") posted this:

Question for anyone who lives or ever been to Pensacola Beach? [I]n the current there in June and I wonder how Pensacola is and how close is the public beach? [sic]
It is not uncommon for otherwise intelligent folk to confuse Pensacola or even Ft. Pickens with Pensacola Beach. Technically, they are all separate legal entities, just as Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan each has separate legal status, although most folk broadly refer to each of them as "New York City."

We see no harm in that. The five boroughs of New York may seem vastly different to those who live in New York, but to the rest of us they all kind of mush together in one huge, crowded, smelly, exciting, ugly, dangerous, wonderful metropolis.

So, too, Pensacola and nearby environs probably mush together in the eyes of past and prospective visitors. The area shares essentially the same ecology and weather (not to mention the same economy, politics, and culture).
Even more so are Pensacola Beach and Ft. Pickens part of the same barrier island environment. They border one another and share about twenty miles of the same stretch of beach, the same winds, and the same water currents. Click here or on the map:

The political differences are vast, of course. One is an unincorporated Golden Goose without democratic representation that Escambia County seems intent on killing with higher and higher taxes, tolls, high rise buildings, and ridiculous elevated highways. The other is part of the federally-protected Gulf Islands National Seashore and, except for the nineteenth century fort, actually looks like a barrier island should.

Some day soon, perhaps, Pensacola Beach and the Fort Pickens part of the National Seashore will be physically separated. In the meantime, everyone is right, as far as we are concerned. They ought to save their umbrages for a better opportunity, like throwing them at BP.


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