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Fog, Polar lows and meteorology in the Barents Sea

The northernmost part of the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) is sensitive and demanding, and introduces new risk which must be managed properly in order to operate prudently.

Climatic conditions are among the natural challenges faced in the far north. Although high winds and waves become less frequent the further north and east one goes, the Barents Sea presents difficulties enough.

Rapid changes, Polar lows, fogs and poorer coverage by weather forecasting services will affect petroleum operations in these waters.

Fog occurs frequently in the summer – particularly around Bear Island, where cold ocean currents flowing south from Svalbard mingle with the warm Gulf Stream moving north.

The reduced visibility can create substantial difficulties for helicopter traffic in the region. So do the Polar lows – depressions which form along the edge of the pack ice.

“Polar lows arise quickly and bring a lot of snow,” says Arne Kvitrud, the PSA’s expert on the far north. “Drilling operations can be interrupted at short notice. Unfortunately, predicting such phenomena is not easy.”

The absence of good weather forecasting largely reflects the very limited number of observation sites in the Barents Sea. That in turn reduces reliability.

“Although weather satellites provide a good overview, you need measurements on the ground to secure a reliable forecast,” Kvitrud emphasises.1|213