Water and Ice Dynamics in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Mark Johnson and Steve Okkonen
Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks,

Andrey Proshutinsky, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Tatania Proshutinsky, Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks


In September 2003, the Coastal Marine Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS), began funding a three year project to understand better the circulation in Cook Inlet, Alaska. The goals of the project are to improve MMS's environmental assessments and oil spill contingency planning by:

  • Understanding better the circulation in Cook Inlet,
  • Improving Cook Inlet circulation modeling, and
  • Validating oil spill trajectory modeling.
  • To meet these goals, we are investigating the water and ice dynamics in Cook Inlet using satellite tracked drifting buoys, winter time satellite imagery, and a high resolution numerical model. Model results will be compared with data from buoys, ice motion, and hydrographic measurements. Our focus is to identify the temporal and spatial variability of the tide rips and validate the numerical model.

    We wish to thank Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response, Inc.,and the Cook Inlet Region Citizens Advisory Council for their ongoing support of this project. We also thank the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation for financial support. We also wish to thank Dr. Carl Schoch and Dr. Scott Pegau, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, for their ongoing help. Special thanks for helping recover and redeploy the buoys goes to to David Coray, Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, Bob Collins, Ninilchik, Gary Jackinsky, Ninilchik, Ben O'Neal, Homer, Jim Williamson, Kenai, and Erik Lindow, Kenai. Such help is essential to the success of this project. We are interested in hearing from others in the Cook Inlet region who may wish to help with this project.

    Buoy design, data transmission, and satellite services can be found here.

    Here for latest status of drifting buoys.

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