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'Nature Was Kind'

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The Loop Current is a big, warm current that travels from the Caribbean Sea between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico. It typically loops up relatively close to Louisiana, then travels back down past Key West, through the Florida Straits, and feeds the Gulf Stream. In a worst-case scenario, if the Loop Current had been near the Deepwater Horizon site, it could have brought oil up the east coast of Florida and then spread it into the North Atlantic. But several times a year, swirling rings of water called eddies form, and luckily, in June 2010 the loop in the Loop Current narrowed at its southern end and pinched off an eddy. It effectively acted as a whirling barrier blocking oil from reaching the current farther south, which flowed through the Florida Straits. (Animation by Jack Cook, WHOI Graphics Services)