On This Date in History:
The press loves anniveraries in years that have a nice ring to it. You wouldn’t hear of the 19th annivesary of an event. But, the next year on the 20th anniversary, well then its big news. Today is the 20th anniversary of one of the biggest environmental disasters in world history and the biggest one in US history…at least man-made disasters. On this date in 1989, the Exxon Valdez dumped a bunch of oil into Prince William Sound and spoiled some 1300 miles of coastline. It is estimated that some 250,000 seabirds died as a result of the spill. A year later, it was found that the normal killer whale pod of 36 that roamed the area had been depleted by 14. There were also about 1000 sea otters that died as well as 151 bald eagles. In 2003, it was estimated that about 20,000 gallons of oil remained soaked in the sands of the region, which poses a continual threat to wildlife.
I’m not going to go into detail about the event. You can get that from your news source. The beef that I always have on this subject is the reporting. The report was that 11 million gallons of oil was spilled. That would be fine except that the media always reports oil usage and the price of oil in barrels. Why not spills? I have speculated in a previous post that the media does this to make it sexier…that is…sound as bad as possible. If it’s “Big Oil” it must be bad. I mean, if they said that it was 257,000 barrels of oil that spilled, that sounds bad…but not as bad as 11 million gallons. I know the reason is that the general public can’t relate to a barrel of oil, but it can relate to gallons. But, if that’s the case, why not report all issues regarding crude oil in gallons? Nevertheless, it was a terrible accident and one thing that baffles some experts is that Exxon-Mobil still uses a number of single hull supertankers. Though its reported as about 6% of its shipping, it’s still more than any other oil company and that seems surprising given the negative publicity of the Exxon Valdez. Even the sister ship of the Valdez, which also has a single hull, still goes into Prince William Sound regularly. Single hull ships are cheaper to rent than double hulled ones but Exxon claims the estimated $18 million it saves annually by using the single hulled ships is not a consideration. To be fair, that is a drop in the bucket for the company. Royal Dutch Shell is the largest operator of tankers in Europe and only uses single hull ships when there are no double hulled ones available. That only accounts for about 1.8% of its shipping needs. It’s a mystery why Exxon-Mobil hasn’t jumped on board as the other major oil companies have done.
Anyway, here are some facts that you won’t get from your media source. The Exxon-Valdez ran aground at 12:04 AM on March 24, 1989. The Captain, Joseph Hazelwood had been seen drinking in a bar prior to the ship’s departure. But, that was not the cause of the accident. The captain was in his quarters and had sent a message to the bridge to steer the ship back into the shipping lanes after it had maneuvered to avoid icebergs. The helmsman never got the message. Ultimately, it was a lack of internal communication that was the root cause.
The 987 foot ship ran aground on Bligh Reef, which is off of Bligh Island. The reef is well known as another famous wreck happened there in 1910 when the Olympia of the Alaska Steamship Company ran aground. The island and the reef were named for the infamous Captain Bligh, who was an officer with Captain James Cook when the explorer who found the Hawaiian Islands was rummaging around Alaska in 1778, which was eleven years prior to Bligh
becoming a Captain and getting his HMS Bounty taken from him near Tahiti. That’s another story but I bet you didn’t know that the story ends up with Bligh navigating an open boat about 23 feet long full of 19 men some 3600 miles. He was really quite a seaman, but the movies don’t tell you all of that. There is also Resolution Cove near Bligh Island where Cook took his ship, HMS Resolution, for repairs. What was Cook doing in Alaska? Searching for the mythical Northwest Passage. Cook went on to Hawaii where he was subsequently killed and Bligh performed some heroic acts that got him noticed back home. Eventually, Bligh became a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy.
If you want to vacation on Bligh Island, here is some information on it…though I don’t think I’d plan a trip in the winter.
Weather Bottom Line:
Everything is shaping up as expected. They had some big old storms in the midwest. Really pretty wild with Valentine, NE getting the booby prize. I think they recorded a high of something like 66 on Monday and by the end of the day, they had a blizzard warning. Before that they were under A Severe Thunderstorm Watch, A Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning for a tornado on the ground nearby. All of that energy zips up to the northeast on Tuesday. There will be big storms to our west but by the time the front gets here, the energy will have lifted away and it will be the
overnight period so look for some t’storms with gusty winds on Tuesday night but not much excitement. A piece of the energy breaks off to the south on Wednesday giving parts of Texas some action. That stuff pivots around us through the Dixie states on Thursday and we may get a shower or two out of that but that’s it. Our temperatures will be above seasonal averages for the latter half of the week after getting to the mid to maybe upper 70’s on Tuesday. We’ll be cooler for the last 3 days of the week but not cold by any stretch. Now, the SPC has the risk for strong storms to our south on Saturday, but I still think we need to keep an eye out for some strong activity here. We’ll see how the SPC alters their areas of concern as we go through the week.
DAY 1 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1255 AM CDT TUE MAR 24 2009
VALID 241200Z – 251200Z
…THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS FROM E TX/WRN-NRN LA TO MID MS
MID/UPPER LEVEL LOW CENTERED OVER SD AT 12Z TODAY IS EXPECTED TO
BECOME NEGATIVELY TILTED AS IT TRACKS ENEWD ACROSS THE UPPER MS
VALLEY. THIS EVOLUTION WILL OCCUR AS A SHORT WAVE TROUGH EMANATING
FROM THE SRN ROCKIES MOVES THROUGH THE SRN/CENTRAL PLAINS THIS
MORNING…AND THEN TRACKS NEWD THROUGH THE LOWER MO VALLEY TO WRN
GREAT LAKES REGION BY 12Z WEDNESDAY. IN THE LOW LEVELS…SURFACE
LOW IS EXPECTED TO SLOWLY FILL/OCCLUDE AS IT TRACKS ENEWD FROM ERN
SD INTO CENTRAL MN TODAY…AND THEN DEEPEN AGAIN TONIGHT IN RESPONSE
TO NEGATIVE TILT OF UPPER SYSTEM. MEANWHILE…A SECONDARY LOW
SHOULD FORM ALONG THE COLD FRONT IN NRN MO AND TRACK NEWD INTO SRN
WI…WITH THE TRAILING COLD FRONT SPREADING EWD THROUGH THE UPPER/
MID MS VALLEY AND ARKLATEX REGION/E TX. THIS FRONT SHOULD REACH THE
CENTRAL GREAT LAKES…LOWER TN/MS VALLEYS TO S TX BY 12Z WEDNESDAY.
…ERN TX/NWRN LA TO MID MS VALLEY…
SSWLY LOW LEVEL FLOW ACROSS THE WARM SECTOR WILL MAINTAIN MOISTURE
RETURN TODAY IN ADVANCE OF THE COLD FRONT. SURFACE DEWPOINTS IN THE
LOWER 60S SHOULD REACH INTO THE ARKLATEX REGION EWD THROUGH THE
LOWER MS VALLEY. MEANWHILE…SELY SURFACE TRAJECTORIES EMANATING
FROM A DRIER AIR MASS ACROSS THE OH/TN VALLEYS SHOULD LIMIT THE
BREADTH OF THE NRN EXTENT OF THE WARM SECTOR/MOISTURE RETURN ACROSS
THE MID MS VALLEY INTO UPPER MIDWEST.
AT 12Z TODAY…TSTMS ARE EXPECTED TO BE ONGOING ALONG THE COLD FRONT
FROM ERN/SRN IA THROUGH WRN MO TO CENTRAL OK. INSTABILITY WILL BE
WEAKER /MLCAPE BELOW 500 J/KG/ FROM MO THROUGH THE MID MS VALLEY.
HOWEVER…STRONG FORCING FOR ASCENT ALONG THE ADVANCING COLD FRONT
AND AHEAD OF THE CENTRAL/SRN PLAINS SHORT WAVE TROUGH SHOULD
COMPENSATE FOR THE WEAK INSTABILITY AND SUPPORT AN EWD MOVING SQUALL
LINE. FARTHER S…FORCING FOR ASCENT WILL BE WEAKER INTO THE
ARKLATEX REGION AND ERN TX…THOUGH GREATER INSTABILITY /MLCAPE
500-1000 J/KG/ AND SURFACE HEATING SHOULD COMPENSATE ALLOWING FOR
TSTM DEVELOPMENT SWD ALONG AND AHEAD OF THE COLD FRONT.
PRIMARY SEVERE THREAT IS EXPECTED TO BE DAMAGING WINDS…ESPECIALLY
FROM ERN OK INTO CENTRAL AR AND THE SRN HALF OF MO WHERE THE
GREATEST FRONTAL SURGE IS FORECAST AND GIVEN 40-50+ KT SOUTHWESTERLY
MEAN FLOW. A STRONG SSWLY LLJ /50-60 KT/ EXTENDING FROM THE
ARKLATEX TO MID MS VALLEY WILL PROMOTE LARGE LOW LEVEL HODOGRAPH
CURVATURE AND THE POTENTIAL FOR TORNADOES. AT THIS TIME…THE
GREATEST TORNADO THREAT IS EXPECTED TO BE FROM SERN OK/ARKLATEX
REGION TO SRN MO WHERE INSTABILITY WILL BE GREATER AND DEEP LAYER
SHEAR VECTORS ARE FAVORABLY ORIENTED FOR SOME DISCRETE STORMS/
SUPERCELLS. SEVERE WEATHER THREAT SHOULD PERSIST INTO THE
EVENING/OVERNIGHT PERIOD ACROSS SRN AR TO E TX/LA WHERE
INSTABILITY/SHEAR PARAMETERS WILL FAVOR A CONTINUED POTENTIAL FOR
…UPPER MS VALLEY…
IF DIABATIC HEATING CAN OCCUR INVOF OCCLUDED SURFACE LOW…SETUP
WILL BE FAVORABLE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOW-TOPPED TSTMS TODAY.
ALTHOUGH VERTICAL SHEAR WILL NOT BE STRONG OWING TO THE CLOSE
PROXIMITY TO DEEP-LAYER LOW CENTER…STEEP MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES AND
COLD MID LEVEL TEMPERATURES SHOULD SUPPORT SOME HAIL WITH THE MORE