In order to collect data in support of weather forecasts, in particular for Polar Lows, two Wavescan metocean buoys were deployed in the western and central Barents Sea. In addition, another buoy was deployed off the northern coast of Norway, the latter buoy also provides data to a ship traffic emergency management system. As these data are freely available, they have also been used to validate weather forecasts from several meteorological agencies such as the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Generally model and observations agree well. As expected, some discrepancies exist. Some of these differences points to modeling issues and some to observations.
The production of gas at Snøhvit, the development of the Stockman and Goliat fields and the recent border conflict settlement concerning the maritime border between Russia and Norway have resulted in increasing operational activities within the oil & gas sector in the Barents Sea. Moreover, there are several other key activities in the Barents Sea, such as fishing and the long-distance transportation of hazardous materials along the coast of northern Norway.
In order to support these activities in such a harsh environment, reliable weather forecasts are essential, in particular for safe operations. This is especially important due to the occurrence of Polar Lows in this area, as they are usually associated with rapid changes in weather and wave conditions. Various operators and contractors have highlighted the difficulties encountered with unpredictable downtime due to these peculiar local environmental conditions.
Even though the area of the Barents Sea is 13 million mFigure 1. These three buoys are now the backbone of the Barents Sea observing network. 2 or almost twice the size of the North Sea, there are few systematic in-situ meteorological observations between Bear Island in the West and Novalja Zemlja to the East. In order to collect data to support weather forecasting activities, Statoil deployed two Wavescan metocean buoys in the western and central Barents Sea during the winter of 2007. In addition, the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority deployed another buoy off the northern Norwegian coast at the end of 2007. An additional purpose of the latter buoy was to obtain real time data in the case of shipping accidents along the coast.