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  • Sunday, November 12, 2017
  • BOEM and ACEP Team Up on a New Wave and Modeling Project in the Beaufort Sea

BOEM is embarking on a new scientific study to better understand the "Wave and Hydrodynamic Modeling with the Nearshore Beaufort Sea" study over a planned five year period from 2017-2021. The work will be conducted through partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska, Anchorage and the Alaska Ocean Observing System. The U.S. Geological Survey will perform much of the modeling work whereas the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and its partners will conduct the field observations and manage the data.

BOEM requires validated high resolution wave model and hydrodynamic model outputs to assess current and future wave conditions and their impacts on offshore oil and gas structures and on potential changes in sedimentation patterns and coastal erosion within Stefansson Sound and the nearshore areas of the Beaufort Sea. Specifically, BOEM requires information on the impacts that changes in sea ice, wind and wave conditions, changes in sedimentation rates, and ice pile up events may have during the expected time frame of the Liberty Development Project (~2020-2050). Coordinated field observations are needed for model validation since wave and sediment transport observations are quite limited in the central Beaufort Sea. Results from this study will support BOEM's NEPA analyses for future lease sales, EPs and DPPs, and inform monitoring activities associated with the planned Liberty Development Project.

The area within Stefansson Sound and Foggy Island Bay are difficult to model due to the scarcity of wind and wave information, complex shallow bathymetry, coastal topography and the highly variable sea ice conditions. Extreme wave events, such as the 100-year return period, are important considerations for the design and construction of offshore oil and gas related infrastructure. Likewise, rapidly changing climatic conditions such as warmer temperatures, stronger winds, and reduced ice cover can adversely impact shore-based facilities through larger, more persistent waves and thawing of permafrost and increased coastal erosion.

This study will use a suite of numerical models to produce high-resolution hindcast and projected winds, atmospheric pressures, waves, currents, and water level variations within Stefansson Sound. Model outputs will be used to assess changes in sedimentation patterns and potential impacts on oil and gas infrastructure and coastal erosion. A coordinated field effort will collect nearshore observations using fixed moorings and buoys within Stefansson Sound.