After three major storm systems in a period of ten days, the news is abuzz with Nor’easters, and for good reason. The first storm, which hit portions of the Mid-Atlantic States and New England on March 2nd, brought wind gusts in excess of 70mph to Virginia and Maryland and portions of southern New York saw over 18 inches of snow. The second storm struck on March 7th and 8th, bringing widespread moderate and heavy snowfall to much of New England. The third and final storm moved through the area on the 13th, but not before dumping 1-2 feet of snow and bringing blizzard conditions to the coasts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Societal impacts from these systems were significant, with mass transit being disrupted, hundreds of thousands losing power, and local, state, and federal government closing.
Impacts from the trio of “bomb cyclones” did not stop inland. Although metropolitan areas of the Northeast garner most of the media attention, Nor’easters have wide-ranging impacts to interests offshore. The obvious are waves, which become quite hazardous as these storms mature. Observations are sparse in areas further offshore, but model guidance indicated 70-80 foot maximum seas were possible with the most recent storm. Observations closer to the coast were less impressive, with buoys noting seas of 15 to 30 feet. Nonetheless, seas of this height still cause problems for small vessels and coastlines, where breaking swells can cause significant beach erosion. This is of particular concern to the Marine Team, as clients consistently work to improve the coastlines of Long Island, New Jersey, and Delaware. Accurately predicting offshore winds and swell heights during powerful storms is critical to maintaining a safe working environment offshore.
The reach of powerful Nor’easters stretches even further beyond waters off the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts. In low-latitude regions of the Tropical Atlantic, short period easterly swells are typically driven by the Trade Winds. Many of the large vessels in the oil and gas industry are not bothered by these shorter length waves and can easily operate while they pass by. Problems occur when longer period swells move into the area from the north; the same swells which have been consistently generated by the strong storms off the United States. Long period swells can enhance the amount of roll experience by large vessels, which makes it difficult for them to accurately position when attempting a move. The 24/7 availability of the Marine Team allows clients in the region to confer at all hours, guaranteeing optimal conditions for sensitive rig-moves when adverse swells threaten the region.
Although significantly dampened after their trek across the Atlantic, swells from the recent Nor’easters have been noted as far south as Brazil and Angola. By this point, they are generally not high enough to cause any issues to mariners, but the far reaches of storms that form so close to home remain impressive nonetheless.