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Gulf of Alaska storms vs. Kulluk drilling rig

Unbelievably, a Shell Oil spokesman said, that forecasts indicated  a favorable two-week weather window. This is at odds with the facts.

Cliff Mass | Jan 06, 2013

The storms win.

Shell Oil made a misguided and poorly informed decision to move a huge drilling platform (the Kulluk) from Dutch Harbor Alaska to Seattle starting Dec. 21. As described in the Seattle Times and elsewhere the problems grew from broken tow lines and faulty engines on December 26th, to the eventual grounding the Kulluk on an island just south of Kodiak island on Dec. 31.

Anyone familiar with the meteorology of the North Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska knows that this region is one of the stormiest on the planet with one major storm after another during midwinter.  Unbelievably, a Shell Oil spokesman said, that forecasts indicated  a favorable two-week weather window. This is at odds with the facts. First, as I will show below the forecasts on the day they left clearly suggested the potential for big storms during the 3-4 week voyage to Seattle, including the first week. Second, forecast skill drops substantially after 4-6 days and thus there was no guarantee of fair weather for this difficult tow.

FULL ARTICLE WITH EXTENSIVE GRAPHICS

Cliff Mass is a meteorologist at the University of Washington and author of The Weather of the Pacific Northwest. This article originally appeared on his weather and atmospheric blog and is reprinted here with permission.

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