Wind and wave modeling supports energy infrastructure in Alaska

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists presented their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in Washington D.C. last week. Here are some research highlights from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting.

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist Peter Bieniek is predicting wind speed to guide development of a potential oil and gas project off Alaska’s Arctic coast.

In his AGU poster, Bieniek described how his wind data will be used to develop a 3D wave model. Project developers need the model to design a man-made gravel island for a proposed well-drilling site 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Bieniek’s projections, which extend to 2100, will help assess how climate trends will affect the facility. Ice cover on the Beaufort Sea already has declined significantly, and wind speeds are expected to increase.

The wind data are produced at an hourly resolution, which captures short-term fluctuations.

“Extremes are hidden in these short-term events,” said Bieniek, a research assistant professor at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center. Data at even a daily or monthly resolution could dwarf short-lived events that might damage infrastructure.

To achieve this resolution, Bieniek uses a downscaling technique that takes global-scale wind information and transforms it to a scale suitable for local infrastructure planning.

Bieniek continues to evaluate his data against wind records from observation sites.