Modeling Prince William Sound is a challenge due to its mountainous surroundings, notoriously stormy seas, and a complex system of freshwater flows from the land interacting with flows between the Sound and the Gulf of Alaska through a narrow entrance.
With 20+ weather stations operating within a 40 square-mile area, AOOS weather stations can deliver the real-time measurements of actual weather conditions so important to anyone going out on the water. AOOS ocean current models predict the trajectories of anything drifting in the sea, including disabled vessels, overboard crew, and cargo.
We attempted to quantitatively evaluate the performance of forecast models in Prince William Sound. These include the WRF atmospheric and ROMS ocean circulation models, the SWAN wave model and the SAROPS search and rescue trajectory model.
Goal 1: Provide physical and biological information to:
- Residents of coastal communities
- Oil tankers and oil spill response vessels
- Air taxi operators
- Commercial fishermen
- Recreational and commercial boaters
- US Coast Guard search and rescue
Accurate and precise wind, wave and ocean current forecasts mean improved weather forecasts for vessel and aircraft operators, and enhance the safety of oil tanker traffic in the Sound. Better physical and ecological forecasting also enables resource programs and managers — the Prince William Sound hatchery, commercial fishermen, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, for example — to make better management decisions on food supply, predation, and on human activities such as commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing.
Goal 2: Improve understanding of what drives ecological variability in the Sound
How does the production of the flora and fauna of this region change with the major coastal currents? Understanding the circulation patterns and dynamics of water exchange will provide a solid scientific foundation for addressing fisheries management and ecosystem needs related to long term oceanic and climatic variability.