Tracking Weather for the Safe Transportation of Oil

Photo of new buoy deployed in 2019.
This buoy broadcasts real-time weather data from the vicinity of the Valdez Marine Terminal.

The Council has a direct interest in the successful operation and maintenance of weather buoys and stations installed in Prince William Sound because weather affects safe oil transportation and spill response.

Accurate and timely weather data and reports are essential to supporting safe navigation and preventing accidents. Accurate data supports the Council’s mission by providing the organization with the best scientific knowledge on weather in the region to help make informed decisions on spill prevention and response and to support safe navigation of tankers.

Weather tracking resources

This Google map contains links to these and other weather resources in our area, some sponsored by the Council, others by our partners at Alaska Ocean Observing System and the Prince William Sound Science Center. The map also includes links to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather buoys in our area. Data such as air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, wind gusts, barometric pressure, solar radiation, and relative humidity are tracked at these sites. Direct links below the map.

Trouble with the map? Try these direct links:

More research needed

It has been noted for many years that there is a lack of adequate metocean data being collected in Prince William Sound. The Council has worked with groups like the Prince William Sound Science Center, Alaska Ocean Observing System and Department of Agriculture to extend our understanding of conditions that exist in the Sound. Overlapping observations are also useful, to provide cross-validation of different observations and redundancy when platforms go offline.

Extreme Weather: Barrier Jets and Williwaws

Prince William Sound and surrounding coastal waters are known for unique and powerful wind events called “barrier jets” and “williwaws.” Barrier jets form along barriers such as mountain ranges and blow parallel to that barrier. A williwaw is a sudden gust of wind descending from coastal mountains to the sea. These two wind events are strong enough to flip smaller boats and even push them onto shore, rocks, or reefs. Large vessels, including tankers, can be damaged by these winds.

There is a lack of understanding about the generation and extent of barrier jet winds along the Sound. The Cape Saint Elias weather station was installed to support better forecasting of barrier jets, and the data from the station feeds into the National Weather System’s MADIS System (for collecting data from various non-NWS stations to enhance forecasting).

Weather just outside of Prince William Sound can be quite severe causing sea states that can become a menace to tankers and other vessels entering or leaving the Sound.


Disclaimer:

*This map contains links to other websites which are intended to provide information about Council projects, and should not be used for navigation purposes.

Timely delivery of data from the buoy(s) through the internet is not guaranteed. The user assumes the entire risk related to its use of information on this site. The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council and the Prince William Sound Science Center will in no event be liable to individuals or third parties for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special or exemplary damages or lost profit resulting from any use or misuse of this data.