Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12/31 New orca baby, highest pressure, double-hulled tankers, oil trains, Shell Kulluk

New calf J50, mother J16, 12.30.14 (Center for Whale Research)
Baby orca born to endangered population of whales that frequents Puget Sound
The Orca Network says a baby orca has been born to the endangered population of killer whales that frequent Puget Sound. The group's executive director Howard Garrett says the baby was spotted with its mother Tuesday in the waters of Canada north of San Juan Island. The Center for Whale Research also said on its Facebook page that the baby was born to member of the J pod, one of three families of whales that spend time in the inland waters of Washington state and Canada. (Associated Press)

Highest Pressures in Northwest History
Cliff Mass writes: "I am always intrigued by all-time history weather records and it appears we are experiencing one right now: The highest sea level pressure ever recorded at some northwest stations.  For others it is the highest December sea level pressure on record. Some folks are complaining about strange sinus pain and headaches, among other maladies.  I know I am feeling a strange tightness in my head…." (Cliff Mass Weather Blog)

25 Years After Exxon Valdez, U.S. Mandates Double-Hulled Oil Tankers
Oil tankers bring about 15 million gallons of oil every day into Washington state. Starting Jan. 1, those ships are required to have double hulls. The oil-spill prevention measure has been in the works for decades, ever since Capt. Joseph Hazelwood ran the Exxon Valdez onto Alaska’s Bligh Reef in 1989. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into Prince William Sound, killing thousands of seabirds and sea otters, devastating the region’s fisheries and unleashing action in Washington, D.C. A year after what was then the nation’s worst oil spill, the U.S. Congress required oil tankers to have double hulls. A quick fix it was not: The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 gave ship owners 25 years to phase out their single-hull tankers. John Ryan reports. (KUOW)

Oil Train Safety And Taxes On Lawmakers’ Agenda For 2015
For the past few years, a growing number of trains have been bringing “rolling pipelines” of oil from North Dakota to ports and refineries in the Pacific Northwest. And in that time, the Washington and Oregon legislatures have failed to come up with the money to pay for the cost of responding to the increasing risk of oil spills in their states. That could change in 2015. Both states’ governors and legislators are talking about the need to enhance safety and preparedness in response to the uptick in oil train traffic in the region. But there are some sticking points when it comes to deciding what’s to be done, and more importantly, how to pay for it. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

The Wreck of the Kulluk
In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell, then the fourth-largest company on Earth, bought a drill rig that was both tall, rising almost 250 feet above the waterline, and unusually round. The hull of the Kulluk, as the rig was called, was made of 1.5-inch-thick steel and rounded to better prevent its being crushed. A 12-point anchor system could keep it locked in place above an oil well for a full day in 18-foot seas or in moving sea ice that was four feet thick. Its drill bit, dropped from a 160-foot derrick, could plunge 600 feet into the sea, then bore another 20,000 feet into the seabed, where it could verify the existence of oil deposits that were otherwise a geologist’s best guess. It had a sauna. It could go (in theory) where few other rigs could go, helping Shell find oil that (in theory) few other oil companies could find. McKenzie Funk reports. (NY Times)

Now, your New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day tug weather--
WEST ENTRANCE U.S. WATERS STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA- 827 PM PST TUE DEC 30 2014
WED AND WED NIGHT
SE WIND TO 10 KT. WIND WAVES 1 FT OR LESS. W SWELL 2 FT AT 10 SECONDS.
THU
LIGHT WIND. WIND WAVES LESS THAN 1 FT. W SWELL 3 FT AT 11 SECONDS.
THU NIGHT
SW WIND TO 10 KT. WIND WAVES 1 FT OR LESS. W SWELL 3 FT AT 11 SECONDS.
--
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