Back in April I talked about the pre-season hurricane prediction from Philip Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University. The scientists predicted 18 named storms for the year, nine of which are expected to become hurricanes with four of them major. I mentioned at the time that rig and OSV operators should be very interested in those numbers because they could mean major disruptions in production in the Gulf. Breaking down operations as the storm approaches and then ratcheting up again once it’s past is time consuming and costly.
Hurricane season begins Saturday.
Well, now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has officially released its prediction for the coming hurricane season, and it’s not going to make oil field officials feel any better.
NOAA expects 13-20 named storms this season, seven to 10 hurricanes, and three to six hurricanes at category 3 or stronger.
Operations are shut down and personnel evacuated long before a storm becomes a major hurricane if the production equipment is in the storm’s path. Considering that most of the drilling takes place in the central Gulf of Mexico, the eye of a storm can be many miles away, but its tropical storm wind field may be powerful enough to disrupt production.
Sea surface temperatures currently running above normal across the tropical north Atlantic was given as a major reason for NOAA’s prediction. Warm sea surface temperatures provide the energy needed to create and sustain hurricanes.
Some weather experts were hoping for a possible savior in the development of an El Nino this summer. El Nino conditions create an environment that is not conducive to the formation of hurricanes by increasing wind shear — which are strong winds at high elevations that prevent storms from forming. Now we know that’s not going to happen.
An update to Klotzbach’s and Gray’s prediction is due out next week. Can we expect better news? Don’t count on it.