Last January, fellow SkyTruther Sara Scoville-Weaver wrote an article, Black Ice Is Never A Good Thing…, about potential drilling in the Arctic Ocean and how a large oil spill – like the one caused by Shell and spotted on satellite image by SkyTruth last December off the coast of Nigeria – could affect the waters off the coast of Alaska where Shell is now poised to commence drilling.
|Wide view of Shell’s drilling areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the north slope of Alaska|
Since then, we have been monitoring the changing sea ice using data published by the National Ice Center at NOAA. The sea ice extent varies dramatically from winter to summer, and even the daily variations can be substantial.
|Yearly ice coverage data in millions of sq km. Source: Danish Meteorological Institute|
Shown below are a series of sea ice maps from the National Ice Center covering the last three weeks. The large white portions represent thick ice coverage, the grey is thin or broken up ice. Red squares show lease blocks which could be potentially drilled. The yellow points are Shell’s planned drilling locations.
As you can see, even this far into the summer season, Shell’s planned drilling sites are still impacted by sea ice, and the ice coverage is still changing drastically from week to week. We shudder (or shiver) to think what it would take to mobilize an oil spill response on the scale of the response to BP’s 2010 disaster in these icy, unpredictable conditions.