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Hamish Causes Chemical and Oil Spills near Cape Moreton – UPDATE

March 12th, 2009 Category: Tropical Cyclones

Tropical Cyclone 18P (Hamish) - March 12th, 2009 © Univ. of Wisconsin

Tropical Cyclone 18P (Hamish) - March 12th, 2009

Pacific Adventurer Cargo

"Pacific Adventurer" Cargo

Oil slick on southern Queensland

Oil slick on southern Queensland

Tropical Cyclone 18P (Hamish), located approximately 485 nautical miles southeast of Cairns, Australia, has tracked westward at 9 knots over the past 6 hours.

Rough seas from the cyclone caused a container ship to lose 31 of its 50 containers of chemicals off eastern Australia on Wednesday morning, announced maritime officials. The lost containers held 620 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for fertilizers and explosives.

The ship also lost an unknown amount of fuel, creating an oil slick in the water about 7 nautical miles east of Cape Moreton. The slick is approximately 5.5 kilometers long and 550 meters wide, and will affect the beaches of southern Queensland.

Due to the rough seas, officials have been unable to contain the spill, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC); however, they will monitor and clean the slick and search for the lost containers.

Oil slick details

Oil slick details

With regards to environmental damage from the chemicals spilled in the bay, an expert from the University of Queensland’s Center of Marine Studies informed the ABC that the ammonium nitrate would not cause serious harm, noting that the only consequence of a similar previous fertilizer leak was a great increase in kelp growth.

However, other university marine experts expressed concern that if the containers leak, such an explosion in algal growth  could suffocate all other marine life in Moreton Bay and spread down the Gold Coast.

TC 18P - March 11th, 2009

TC 18P - March 11th, 2009

Regarding the current strength and track of the cyclone itself, animated multispectral satellite imagery depicts a fully-exposed low-level circulation center (LLCC) with no associated deep convection. Maximum significant wave height is 16 feet.

A QuikSCAT pass indicates that the LLCC has continued to weaken and become less organized over the past 12 hours. High levels of vertical wind shear and interaction with land will quickly cause the LLCC to dissipate by TAU 24.

The QuikSCAT pass indicates that the strongest winds are in the southwestern quadrant of the LLCC at 20-25 knots. Based on the QuikSCAT pass and the high vertical wind shear no further intensification of TC 18P is expected prior to landfall.

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