WUWT and WeatherBell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy

Route of MV Akademik Shokalskiy

Route of MV Akademik Shokalskiy Image: Voice of America

Today, while shopping at lunchtime for some last minute year end supplies, I got one of the strangest cell-phone calls ever. It was from my friend John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel and Chief meteorologist at KUSI-TV in San Diego. He was calling via cell phone from his car, and he was on his way into the TV station early.

He started off by saying, “Anthony, we have a really strange situation here”.

Then to my surprise, he relayed a conversation he had just had; a person on the Akademik Shokalskiy had reached out, because they didn’t have adequate weather data on-board. At first, I thought John was pulling my leg, but then as he gave more details, I realized he was serious.

What had happened was that the US Coast Guard had received a message from the ship, requesting weather and wind information for Antarctica. That got relayed to someone at the Scripps oceanographic Institute in San Diego, and it went to John’s weekend KUSI meteorologist Dave Scott. Dave had worked with a scientist who is now on the US Coast Guard IceBreaker Polar Star, and they had logged the request for weather for forecast data from Akademik Shokalskiy. That’s how all this got started.

The message was that they needed better weather information on the ship than they had, specifically about wind and how it might affect the breakup of sea ice. John asked me to gather everything I had on the area and send it, and also to help him contact Joe D’Aleo of WeatherBell Analytics, because somehow John’s cellphone had gotten stuck into some sort of “private caller” mode and Joe wasn’t answering his phone due to how the incoming call looked.

My first thought was that no matter how much we’ve been criticizing the expedition for its silliness, that if such a request had reached all the way from Antarctica to me, I’d do everything I could to help.

I told John “give me 15 minutes”, which was about the time I’d need to get out of COSTCO and get back to my office and send along some things I knew would help.

I immediately called Joe D’Aleo at WeatherBell, who was as incredulous as I at the request, and asked him to call John Coleman right away. I explained to him that we had to remember that we were dealing with a Russian ship, not a military ship, but a charter vessel and they likely didn’t have all the tools that American meteorologists had and may not even know where to look for better data. I also pointed out that the Australian scientists on-board were climatologists, and not operational weather forecasters, and finding this sort of weather data probably wasn’t in their skill set.

Joe started working from the WeatherBell end, I finished my shopping and headed back to the office. As I drove, I started thinking about the situation with the ship there. They had wind compressing the ice into shore, with the Akademik Shokalskiy in the middle, and the wind wasn’t changing. They needed a wind shift in order to ease the pressure on the ice but they had no idea when that might happen. It was a waiting game, and as we know, the longer a ship remains trapped in sea ice, the greater its chances of having a hull breach due to the pressure.

I knew just what to send, because it was something that had been discussed several times by commenters on WUWT.

When I got back to the office, I no more than pulled up the bookmark and press send on the email with a brief description of the operational weather data model that covered the region and John Coleman was on the phone again. He asked me to talk to Dave Scott and explain what I had just sent over. I called Dave immediately and relayed the email.

I sent a live link that provided this image of Antarctica, and I noted in a Tweet about the same time:

Dave listened intently to my explanation and then thanked me saying “this is exactly what we need”. I then started to do some research into the extensive library of operational forecast products put together by our friend Dr. Ryan Maue of WeatherBell which can be seen at http://models.weatherbell.com/  About that same time I get a new email from Joe D’Aleo, and he had sorted out the maps needed and had sent an email to John, Dave, and I.

In a couple of minutes John Coleman was back on the phone to me, he wanted my assessment of the maps. I had looked at what was happening and saw what I thought might be an opening in 7-8 days based on the forecast graphics from WeatherBell, where the winds would shift to offshore in the area where Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck. Like we discussed in the WUWT post yesterday Polynyas are very important for marine life and cooling the oceans I had hoped that a coastal polyna might open up near the ship. We also discussed the possibility of a low pressure system passing nearby that might help break up the ice. I didn’t express much hope for that.

The problem is that they are in a catch-22 now, they need strong offshore winds to help blow the sea ice out to open water, but at the same time they need calm or light winds for a safe helicopter rescue.

John Coleman and Dave Scott put together a video news story which ran on the KUSI 6PM News tonight. I was interviewed for the story, and you can watch it here:



Watching the wind is the key to the way out of the situation the Akademik Shokalskiy is in. This near real-time wind model is worth watching, and it updates every three hours with new observations, click on the image to start it.



Note the green circle marker, which is the approximate location the Akademik Shokalskiy is at. Winds are running parallel to the coast, and pushing ice up against the edge of the Commonwealth Bay.

Despite the irony and folly of the situation, I’m sure readers will join me in the hope that everyone makes it off the ship safely, whether it is by helicopter or by the ship being freed from the ice.


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Jon Jermey

If they DON’T get off the ice, we can’t charge the hell out of their asses and recover the cost to the taxpayer.


I am hoping and praying they make it out alive and well. They are in great danger.

Janice Moore

Good for you, An-thon-y! They went to the best.
That you have been given the opportunity to come to the aid of your “enemies” (v. a v. truth in science), can only be God’s providence. And, yes, I have been and will pray that God gets them out of there (they are certainly not going to get out without God’s help).
Your admiring fan,
P.S. Yet another resounding blow for free markets over socialism: During Hurricane (a real one) Katrina, it was privately owned Home Depot who got the supplies and equipment through; when 33 Chilean miners needed rescuing from the bowels of the earth, it was private companies in the U.S., Germany, and other capitalist countries (sorry, forgot all of them) who had the drill bit and cable and who flew in the supplies (U.P.S.); and now, it is you and Joe, two American free market entrepreneurs and genuine scientists’ turn. WAY TO GO!

If this were a soap opera, this would be the point when I would flick the channel. Lazy script writing. Cutting on actors due to budget cut. (I still don’t really get why you.)
REPLY: To be honest, I didn’t either. Sometimes, fate is a weird journey. I certainly didn’t seek any of this out, but I was happy to help in any way I could. I’m sure you’d do the same if you found yourself in that situation rather than “changing the channel”. Watch the KUSI News video, it explains more about how it came about – Anthony

When things get tough, truth is what people need, and propaganda is useless.
Thanks, Anthony, for sending them the facts and the truth.
It is a pity that the political mind-set in Washington does not care so much for truth, thinking propaganda is more important. They too are on a ship, the “Ship of State.”
When a ship of any sort runs into ice, what happened aboard the Titanic occurs. The first thing thrown overboard is political correctness, and people show their true colors. Some utterly freak out and panic and would kill their best friend to cling to life a little longer. Others turn to Truth.
I deem it significant than when someone aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy turned to Truth, he turned to this website.

“My first thought was that no matter how much we’ve been criticizing the expedition for its silliness, that if such a request had reached all the way from Antarctica to me, I’d do everything I could to help.”
See all ye warmunists! This is called “ethics”.
Try to get some.


Too awesome. This is the first confirmation I have received that the Polar Star made it’s resupply mission and was in the area. Great to hear they used John Coleman as a resource, but I am sure there will be hell to pay.

stan stendera

Bravo to everyone involved in this.

Janice Moore

And Bravo! to you, dear Stan Stendera! May 2014 be yours and Libby’s best year so far!
(and don’t be such a stranger — your enthusiasm, great depth and breadth of knowledge (from your non-formal education), and passionate defense of truth are needed around here!)


Anthony – you are a person of extreme character and great industry. What an exemplary way to start off the new year, bridging the bitter divide between climate alarmism and skepticism in a time of uncommon and dire need. Hopefully this will lead to some bridge mending.

Sean McHugh

Let’s hope for karma conditions.


Civilized professionalism at its finest, and a PR coup too.

Richard of Brisbane

We are having to follow this story on blogs like yours as the MSM in Australia are not giving the full details.
This is the gift that keeps on giving.
How can they spin their way out of this one?
Getting stuck in ice that models say should be gone, rescue attempts failed so far, ice-breakers from America getting involved, funding of trip queried, company structure queried, large dollars to be settled in costs. MSM now describing it as a tourist ship. Moving the story from science to Asia.
Best of all asking Anthony Watts for help.
I traveled to see you in Australia and have followed your blog since, keep up the brilliant work.

The laws of physics actually work – even in Nature….
‘Catabatic winds’, for those not knowing,
Are caused by heavy, cold air perched on top of
Mountains, glaciers, and ice shelves, like in
Antarctica. The only problem, is that their speeds can get very high.
Well done, again, Anthony.
The people in dire straits down there,
on self-inflicted continuous public view
(In contrast to previous arctic ventures)
Need all the practical help they can get.
Thanks to internet, we now know what it looks like down there.

OMG. This is an astounding development. It seems as if there is no end to the stupid antics of the Antarctic 74, as juxtaposed against the precarious position they have put themselves in by believing in the lie of ‘global warming’ rather than the facts in front of their own noses. I simply cannot look at their childish behaviour, when I know that at least three vessels have been pulled out of normal service, putting crew and passengers at risk, along with the people who depend on these icebreakers to supply them with food and equipment.

I hope the ice’ll get thinner so they can get out safe and well.
The irony, however, gets thicker and thicker.


The speed and professionalism of Anthony and friends was magnificent, indeed the best of humanity itself. Thank you to all involved! God speed to those in peril on the sea this night!

Jimmy Haigh.

‘ I also pointed out that the Australian scientists on-board were climatologists, and not operational weather forecasters, and finding this sort of weather data probably wasn’t in their skill set.’
This hits the nail right on the head.
Superb stuff. When they get into trouble who can they call? Their own side are as useful as chocolate fireguards, so they had to call someone who knows what he is doing.

John Of Cloverdale WA, Australia

Yep the Australian Tax Payer (me included) will be footing the bill for this fiasco. I have already emailed Barnaby Joyce, the new government member for New England, who is a no-nonsense type of politician. In my email I suggest any future funding for this Climate Group of the University of NSW be redirected to medical research, where there are serious researchers willing to help mankind.
I am amazed, Antony, that Turney and his group were not better prepared. I have worked as a seismic supervisor in places, such as the tidal region of the Bay of Bengal and the jungles of East Borneo (for UNOCAL/Union Oil of California), where planning and appreciation of the environment was most paramount for the success of the program and the safety of my personnel and contractors.


Of course everyone wishes a safe return for all those out at sea. I don’t think there should ever be any doubt of that. Yet I’ve just had a discussion about this with my liberal friends and they don’t see the irony at all. In fact, they resent my suggesting it. This won’t change a thing. Those who believe the globe is warming due to human influence won’t let being surrounded by ice deter them.

Alfred Deakin of the Commonwealth of Australia

Anthony wrote:
“I also pointed out that the Australian scientists on-board were climatologists, and not operational weather forecasters, and finding this sort of weather data probably wasn’t in their skill set”.
Pray tell, Anthony, what is their skill set? Dodgy stats analysis? Making up data? Creating mendacious propaganda? Writing meritless grants applications? Silencing opposing views by corrupting the peer review process?

Steve C

When in doubt, call the professionals. Wonder whether the Cap’n has mentioned this to his tourists … 🙂
Well done. Quite a start to the new year!


The map reminds me. In the 1930s there was a lamppost in Invercargill which had the distinction of being The Most Southerly Lamppost in the British Empire.
Nothing to do with this topic, but I thought you needed to know that.

Yes, it is difficult to feel sorry for the westeners on board the Akademic Sjokowskiy.
Personally, I have stayed 6 weeks on board a similar Russian vessel (the Ivan Kireev), in the Barents Sea, actually celebrating New Year, back in 2007, with free beer and a good meal provided by the captain. We had Russian TV and the annual message from Putin.
I reckon my advice to them is: keep yor spirits up, and think about Shackleton’s journey, and Dawson’s incredible survival, about 100 years ago – unfortunately, he lost some of the men, but lived to tell us the true strength of catabatic winds of the Antarctic. Finally, if you don’t mind alcohol, sample some of the Russian stuff – it’s normally good, basic stuff. – And, don’t forget to use the Sauna on board. I had the pleasure using it once a week on the Ivan Kireev, as it was open for non-Russian ‘guests’ every Sunday. The hour in there was top of the week.
The one guy I really feel sorry for is the Captain. He is facing some really tough decisions ahead…

M Seward

“Alfred Deakin” has touched on this in his post above and I offer that “Climatologist” are the late 20th early 21st Century’s Phrenologists – with all the imputations that carries.

Claude Harvey

Interesting who folks turn to when truth is required to save their behinds. Not at all the same as when the world is a stage and “winning the conversation” is what passies for “reality”.

Mac the Knife

Serendipity makes for strange bed fellows, doesn’t it? May God bless you for doing the right thing. While we can laugh at the self-induced predicament of the ship of fools, we all should pray for their survival… and help, if it is in our power to do so.


I do hope they know that you were the one to come to their rescue with the much needed data.
That ought to burn their hides until rescued, and that puts a smile on my face

John Gross

Just for the record, Anthony, can you please explain if a competent forcaster could have warned them of the danger *before* they were trapped. If the signs were there and they ignored them then the leader should be made to answer for his incompetence.

Hari Seldon

As the danger recedes and the ice thins, watch out for the hatred to get thicker. Hell hath no fury like a belittled climatologist.

Keith Minto

The Aurora Australis is currently in a polyna, I commented on this in yesterdays report (30 Dec.) from the ship. The latest report (31 Dec.) states

The weather has not been kind to us again today so we continue to patrol the polynia waiting for an opportunity to transfer passengers from the Akademic Shokalskiy

‘Mark’ continues

Each day in Antarctica is different. Yesterday there was thick snow falls with the snow covering the ship, this morning icicles were on the rails around the bridge, the crane, the crows nest and other parts of the vessel and now it is raining. For the first timers on board they have seen the glory of Antarctica with beautiful weather and perfect conditions to whiteouts, poor visibility, snow showers and rain. One thing thankfully not experienced on this voyage is high winds (touch wood) – they can be really noisy when they whip around the ship. Last night a presentation was given about time spent at Rothura Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. It was interesting to see how another nation’s Antarctic Program is run in a different part of Antarctica to Australia’s Antarctic Program.

From https://secure3.aad.gov.au/proms/public/schedules/display_sitrep.cfm?bvs_id=19315

Man Bearpig

Well, well, well. Global Alarmism Ship of fools depends on ‘denier lairs’ and ‘denier central’ for the weather forecasts because the Cause can not fathom out weather patterns nor read Weather maps… Classic, you really REALLY could not make this up.
spread the word guys !!


I am so loving this. We get to mock them for days on the blog of Anthony Watts, who CAGW advocates hate with a passion – and then he helps them with weather info!
It’s like having a cake and eating it too, then getting a full refund for the purchase price.


whatever next?

Man Bearpig

Here is a bunch of climate scientists doing what they are best at

Jimbo in Australia
The skill set of the ‘scientific’ expeditioners is clearly deficient for the task they set themselves. The scientific leader – Climate Change Professor Chris Turvey of the University of New South Wales in Sydney – is actually a paleantologist (coincidently one of the two genuinely academic research areas of Professor Flannery – the other one being mammology). My research on Turvey’s peer reviewed publications reveals no reference to work on Antarctica, sea ice or indeed on any other topic related to the cryosphere. There is no evidence that he has knowledge or experience of climatology or weather forecasting. This is the man who apparently was in charge of the movements of the ‘Akademic Shokolskiy’ as it attempted to retrace the route of the Australian Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson approx 100 years ago.
My own feeling is that the best bet for these demented green/warmists is that the powerful US icebreaking Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star will shortly arrive and that the weather will improve.
I am drafting in my head as I write this post the letters I will be sending to the relevant Australian Australian politicians pointing out the extent of this folly and pressing strongly for quick and dirty to inquire into the events and recommend the appropriate spreading of costs of rescue to their professors and their universities and not to the Australian taxpayers.

Keith Minto
Keith Minto

BRAVO ZULU to Anthony, John, Dave and Joe.


Headline: “Skeptics Help Save Global Warming Alarmists’ Lives”
Do you think they will ever know? And, if they did, do you think you would ever get a “thank you”?


having trouble posting this on the top thread:
1:43: AUDIO: BBC: Uncertainty over Antarctic helicopter rescue plan
He doesn’t sound happy.

Keith Minto

From BOM there is an interactive wind speed and direction forecast, but I find this difficult to read;
For the ships approximate location in Antarctica just triangulate down from Tasmania and New Zealand.

M Courtney

Let’s hope a fair wind blows.
And let’s note that SkS were not the website that is called on when lives are on the line.
The difference between the value of science and propaganda.

Stephen Richards

Martin Hovland says:
January 1, 2014 at 12:09 am
The laws of physics actually work – even in Nature….
‘Catabatic winds’, for those not knowing,
Are caused by heavy, cold air perched on top of
Mountains, glaciers, and ice shelves, like in
Antarctica. The only problem, is that their speeds can get very high.
On Antarctica these winds are the ones that everyone fears. They arrive almost instantaneously, are difficult to forecast, blow at speeds in excess of 160km/hr and, by there nature, are exremely (dangerously) cold.


As Richard North points out, ships stuck in ice dramas haven’t been rare recently but have mainly been studiously ignored by the media:
(scroll down to see the several posts)
This time, having the huge media build-up to the trip and having their own on board has made the situation impossible to ignore for the BBC and The Guardian. (Not impossible to spin however)

This story is one of the most amazing ones that I have read in a long time. I hope that your expert meteorologist knowledge and skills give aid and comfort to the climatologists who have no skills at all when it comes to weather forecasting — short term or long term. I hope many people will come to see that it is meteorologists that we should listen to when it comes to weather and climate and not academic grant-seekers who practice a computer driven version of palm-reading.
Someone said in one of the earlier threads that this episode may become more important than climate-gate in the fight against the mindless propaganda pushed by the socialist-greens and I now agree with that assessment.


The Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long is currently stopped. It has been moving as slowly as 0.3 knots in a direction of about 330 degrees for the last day or so:


to all sceptics please send this video to everybody they know i have http://www.kusi.com/video?clipId=9686594&autostart=true

Jenn Oates

Eh, it’s summer down there. I’m sure all that ice will melt any minute.
Nice job, Anthony, and what an interesting way to end 2013 and start 2014!

Dodgy Geezer

…When a ship of any sort runs into ice, what happened aboard the Titanic occurs. The first thing thrown overboard is political correctness, and people show their true colors…
I’m not sure how that works? There was no panic during the sinking. The evacuation of the Titanic was carried out following the ‘politically correct’ standards of the day – women and children first. The result was that some lifeboats were hardly filled at all because there were not enough women and children at their launch points, and many more men died than was necessary…..