Cape Fairweather, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Cape Fairweather, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

by | Jan 14, 2019

Cape Fairweather is a point of land in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, on the Malaspina Coastal Plain, Alaska. It was named “Cape Fair Weather” in 1778 by Captain James Cook, of the Royal Navy, presumably because of the good weather encountered at the time. However, this area is notorious for bad weather, particularly high wind speeds and precipitation.

Strong low-level terrain-parallel winds, known as barrier jets, can reach high speeds and are commonly observed along coastal southeastern Alaska. These jets form when abnormally large offshore-directed pressure gradients occur in the presence of terrain heights exceeding 1.2 miles (2 km) within 62 miles (100 km) of the coast. The coastline bordering the Gulf of Alaska has numerous topographic barriers near the coast, some of the most important near-coast mountains are in the Fairweather Range, which is over 2.8 miles (4500 m) in elevation. The proximity of these steep mountains to the coast favors the development of coastal barrier jets which are treacherous to the aviation and fishing industries in the region.

A fisherman was caught in a poorly forecasted barrier jet near Yakutat on 14 March 1979, in which the forecast was for 30 kt (15.5 mps) winds, but 70 kt (36 mps) winds were reported. The barrier jet responsible for the high wind speeds was associated with a deepening low-pressure system that made landfall just northwest of Yakutat, Alaska. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Fairweather here:

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