Marine weather conditions on the coast of British Columbia are to be respected but are by no means exceptional.
Severe winter storms impact coastlines all over the world in equal measure. British Columbia has the good fortune to be clear of the impact of Tropical revolving Storms named hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones depending on the region. Such storms, as all mariners know, are to be avoided at all costs.
Canada’s west coast certainly gets enough rainfall, so it’s not for lack of moisture but rather the temperature of the water that allows us to escape tropical storms.
Will the west coast of Canada ever see a tropical storm – it’s highly unlikely. There are some “Perfect Storm” scenarios that could see a tropical storm or hurricane reaching the California coast, but there are far too many factors working against such a storm for it to make the trip all the way to Vancouver.
By comparison, the west coast has the Alaska Current, considered a warm ocean current as it flows from south to north along the coast. However, the ‘warm’ for the Alaska Current originates from roughly the same latitude as the origin of the Gulf Stream. Therefore it simply cannot deliver the amount of heat needed to sustain the kinds of storms seen in the east.
Prevailing weather conditions have also been raised on a number of occasions as reasons not to service VLCCs on the northwest coast of British Columbia. Information readily available from the Environment Canada website clearly shows that the weather conditions on our coast are very similar to the conditions on the northeast coast of Canada. Importantly, the East Coast has been handling large tankers and LNG carriers for many years without incident.
Given that the weather conditions on both coasts can be challenging, the Pacific Pilotage Authority recently commissioned a study on the feasibility of using helicopters out of Prince Rupert to board and disembark pilots on en route to Prince Rupert and Kitimat.