The CCM as a Scientists Communicating with the Media—The Sky is Falling and It will Rain Oil All Over

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011: 9:15 AM
The CCM as a Scientists Communicating with the Media—The Sky is Falling and It will Rain Oil All Over
309 (Washington State Convention Center)
Jill F. Hasling, Weather Research Center, Houston, TX

When the media calls, the CCM as a scientist can often be the voice of reason. This certainly was the case for this Houston CCM each time a cluster of clouds associated with a tropical wave moved across the tropical Atlantic during the 2010 Hurricane Season. On April 20, 2010, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon experienced a blow-out killing 11 workers. The $560 million dollar rig sank on April 22, 2010. By April 28th, the Coast Guard estimated that the blown out well was leaking 5,000 barrels per day into the Gulf of Mexico. Extensive media coverage of this event led to very exaggerated claims of the impacts that a tropical cyclone forming or entering the Gulf of Mexico could cause. What would a tropical storm or hurricane do to the oil spill? Over 6000 support vessels were involved in the operation to cap the well, contain and clean up the oil. The vessels drilling the relief wells could continue to operate until the seas reached 12 feet. The containment and clean up vessels had to seek shelter when the seas reached 6 to 8 feet. The operations also needed 5 days before these conditions were forecast to impact the Mississippi Canyon 252 oil spill area. On June 25, 2010, Tropical Depression One (later named Alex) formed over the northwestern Caribbean. This was over 850 miles from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill region. So little direct impact was expected. However with the formation of Alex, the media was searching for stories and comments on the impact of Alex to the oil spill. One comment was would Alex cause it to rain oil. The main impact of Alex on the oil spill was the destruction of oil containment booms by the swells. There was then calm until July 22, 2010 when Bonnie formed in the western Atlantic and threatened Florida. The 5 day projected path took Bonnie right over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill area. Once again causing a flurry of media stories on tropical cyclones and oil. As a CCM and a meteorologist, it is important to build an effective two-way communication and to listen to the reporter's questions and comments then give a calm explanation of how the storm could impact the oil spill.