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Environmental Ocean and Plume Modeling for Deep Sea Mining in the Bismarck Sea.

Coulin, J., P. J. Haley, Jr., S. Jana, C.S. Kulkarni, P. F. J. Lermusiaux, T. Peacock, 2017. Environmental Ocean and Plume Modeling for Deep Sea Mining in the Bismarck Sea. OCEANS'17 MTS/IEEE. In press.

A pressing environmental question facing the ocean is the potential impact of possible deep-sea mining activities. This work presents our initial results in developing an ocean and plume modeling system for the Bismark Sea where deep sea mining operations will probably take place. We employ the MSEAS modeling system to both simulate the ocean and to downscale initial conditions from a global system (HYCOM) and tidal forcing from the global TPXO-8 Atlas. We found that at least 1.5 km resolution was needed to adequately resolve the multiscale flow fields. In St. Georges channel, the interaction between the tides, background currents, and underlying density fields increased the subtidal flows. Comparing to historical transport estimates, we showed that tidal forcing is needed to maintain the correct subtidal transport through that Channel. Comparisons with past simulations and measured currents all showed good agreement between the MSEAS hindcasts. Quantitative comparisons made between our hindcasts and independent synoptic ARGO profiles showed that the hindcasts beat persistence by 33% to 50%. These comparisons demonstrated that the MSEAS current estimates were useful for assessing plume advection. Our Lagrangian transport and coherence analyses indicate that the specific location and time of the releases can have a big impact on their dispersal. Our results suggest that ocean mining plumes can be best mitigated by managing releases in accord with such ocean modeling and Lagrangian transport forecasts. Real-time integrated mining-modeling-sampling is likely to provide the most effective mitigation strategies.