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Everybody wants to know just where the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will spread. Intel‘s Encanto supercomputer in New Mexico has calculated that information, using a complex ocean current simulation.

As the company described in a blog post, the computer model predicts that the oil on the surface will be carried by the gulf’s Loop Current over hundreds of miles to Florida. Then it will curl around the state and head into the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The spill could thus cause damages thousands of miles up the East Coast of the U.S.

The model was created by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The Parallel Ocean Program had already been created as part of a theoretical experiment to model the weather in the ocean, and scientists adapted it for the spill. The simulation ran on Intel’s Encanto supercomputer in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The supercomputer, No. 32 on the list of fastest supercomputers, is a water-cooled machine with 28 tall cabinets and more than 3,500 Intel quad-core Xeon processors.

The first runs at the simulation took more than 250,000 hours of computer time, with 1,000 cores working in parallel. The simulation showed that the big mass of oil that was deep underwater was moving slowly. But the oil at 65 feet and higher was moving quickly to Louisiana and Florida. In the Gulf Stream, the oil can move 100 miles per day. The simulation isn’t perfect, as it doesn’t take into account things such as oil density and buoyancy. Here’s a video that shows the predicted path of the oil.


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