Weathering the storms

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How do BP's meteorologists make a difference?

Last edited: 14 September 2016

It's peak hurricane season in the Atlantic from mid-August until the end of October. The first hurricane in more than a decade hit Florida earlier this month, serving as a reminder of the potential weather threats in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of year. Find out how BP's meteorologists monitor the risks there, and around the world, every day

Whether they’re monitoring a storm in the Atlantic Ocean or tracking sub-zero temperatures in Alaska, BP’s team of meteorologists keep a watchful eye on weather conditions that could have an impact on the business’s safety and operations. 

Each day, BP’s meteorologists prepare specialized forecasts that help inform important business decisions. Chief meteorologist Dr. Ed Bracken is based in Houston, US, and leads the team monitoring conditions worldwide.

“Because BP has operations all around the world, we can’t just find a forecast on the internet,” says Bracken. “We need to know the exact timing on when wind may change, when precipitation may start, when weather may become severe.”

Seasonal threats

Peak hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from mid-August through late October, meaning Bracken and his team are particularly focused on the Gulf of Mexico during this period. They follow weather patterns and evaluate forecast models to identify potential threats to BP’s Gulf operations. 

“Twice a week, we’re briefing the Gulf of Mexico Severe Weather Assessment Team to give them an update on what’s happening so they can plan for possible evacuations,” says Bracken. “If there is an actual threat, we start meeting daily to discuss the forecast and all the risks around it.” 

BP’s facilities in the Gulf of Mexico range from massive production platforms to state-of-the-art drilling rigs. Depending on the vessel and the weather conditions, a full evacuation can take up to three days.

Ready to respond

“Some of the assets are easy to evacuate, meaning they can be evacuated in 24 hours,” says Bracken. “For others - like a drill ship, something that’s actively drilling right now - it will take them a few days to get ready to evacuate and move away from the threat that could exist.” 

When it comes to staying ahead of the weather, Bracken says collaboration and communication are essential. 

“It’s really a team effort - the meteorologists aren’t making the decisions, it’s a team decision between us and the people who are affected by the weather.”

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