Fishermen follow the current as a harbinger of good catches. It has also transported algal blooms -- toxic "red tides" -- from the Gulf of Mexico to beaches and bays along the southeast Atlantic coast.
Oceanographer George Maul worries that the current could push the oil slick right through the Florida Keys and its 6,000 coral reefs.
"I looked at some recent satellite imagery and it looks like some of the oil may be shifted to the south," said Maul, a professor at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla. "If it gets entrained in the loop, it could spread throughout much of the Atlantic."
In fact, new animation from a consortium of Florida institutions and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts a slight southward shift in the oil over the next few days.
Emergency responders are working to cap the oil spill at its undersea source, but admit it could be weeks before the well is shut down.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are expected to release their predictions of the spill and the loop current early this week. A spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to requests for comment by Discovery News.