Does Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plan Adequately Address Arctic Summer Storms? Of Course Not

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Arctic Summer Storm 08:08:2012

Arctic climate scientists have been closely watching the development of weather anomalies associated with diminishing sea ice in the larger Arctic Basin.  A good place to keep track of what are known as Arctic Summer Storms is the web site, Arctic Sea Ice Blog.    As climate science blogs go, this one’s commenting community seems to be top notch, with a few contrarians or anti-alarmists to spice things up.

That the potential for devastation from Arctic Summer Storms is growing might easily be shown by the alarming graph posted below, prepared by the blog:

ISIS sea ice change 2005-2012

Essentially, Arctic Summer Storms are byproducts of decreasing sea ice during the summer.  They have the capacity of further reducing sea ice coverage rather rapidly, which might then lead to potential for more storms – a sort of cascade of unprecedented weather events.

It has been postulated that we may eventually have what might be called “Arcticanes,” very large summer storms in the Arctic that could prove devastating to coastal communities, ecological niches and structures at sea, such as oil or gas platforms.

Although Shell Oil’s plans for test drilling and production drilling off of Alaska’s Arctic coasts assess some problems, no planning has been put forth regarding Arcticanes.  Probably, in part, because they exist more in potential so far, rather than as historical example.

We may not have long to wait, though.

One important realization from growing awareness of such climate events as Arctic Summer Storms is the obvious fact that the models and structures used by governments to assess impacts of Arctic developments fail to include much recent science on newly discovered or postulated climate-controlled variables into these development plans and scenarios.  With the current gridlock in Washington DC pointing more toward rolling back sensible regulatory regimes than toward updating approaches to standards, we can expect disasters to precede solutions.

As recently as late last week, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papa stated, “[f]or right now, we are well prepared, because like we always do traditionally, we have multi-mission assets that we can deploy, that are very capable, and that are sufficient for the level of human activity that’s going on this summer and perhaps for the next three or four summers.”

But the USCG and other U.S. government agencies seem to lack the imagination, vision and cautionary perspective to broadly understand how different things are rapidly becoming in the far, far North.