Oil Changing Albedo

Several individuals have inquired in recent weeks asking if the oil in the Gulf of Mexico will impact the weather or hurricane development. More specifically will the oil change the albedo (amount of sunlight reflected) of the water, therefore causing an increase in temperature. This warming of the water would in theory increase the strength of approaching hurricanes and perhaps increase rainfall amounts in the United States.

Contrary to popular perception, the oil does not make the surface of the water darker and therefore allowing the water to absorb more sunlight mainly because the Gulf of Mexico is already very dark and absorbs more than 90% of the sunlight that strikes it. There certainly could be some very small areas where the oil may raise the temperature beyond what would have otherwise occurred, but only in periods of light wind and small wave action. Therefore, as a whole, the Gulf will not have an increase in temperatures because of the oil leak.