The Global Ocean Observing System

Over the last 10 years, a global ocean observing system (in situ and remote sensing) has been progressively implemented. The system, primarily designed to serve climate research, is used as a backbone for most operational oceanography applications. Although significant progress has been made (e.g. Argo and Jason are outstanding successes), sustaining the global ocean observing system remains a challenging task (Freeland et al. 2010; Wilson et al. 2010). There is also a pressing need to develop further regional and coastal components and, as discussed above, to extend the measurement capabilities to biogeochemical parameters. This endeavour is clearly beyond the scope of ocean analysis and forecasting teams and involves major international programs or intergovernmental organizations (e.g. WMO and IOC through JCOMM, GOOS and GCOS, GEOSS, CEOS) and research programs (e.g. WCRP, IGBP and SOLAS)3.

Nowadays, use is made of observations from satellites, autonomous floats, onshore devices (radar, tide gauges etc.), off-shore moorings, aircraft, AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles), VOS (Voluntary Observing Ships) and more. Especially in the coastal zone more and better observational data, extending over longer periods, are essential if modelling accuracy and capabilities are to be enhanced (Malone et al. 2010). International collaboration is an obvious and valuable means of achieving this goal. While international funding supports some satellite programs (although most of these are still regarded as non-operational), synergistic in situ monitoring presently relies on national funding. Examples are the Argo profiling

3 WMO=World Meteorological Organisation; IOC = Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; JCOMM = Joint Committee for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology; GOOS = Global Ocean Observing System; GCOS = Global Climate Observing System; GEOSS = Global Earth Observation System of Systems; CEOS = Committee on Earth Observation Satellites; WCRP=World Climate Research Program; IGBP = International Geosphere-Biosphere Program.

Fig. 1.8 Liverpool Bay Coastal Observatory in the Irish sea, indicating simultaneous multiparameter measurements and satellite AVHRR sea surface temperatures. (Courtesy Roger Proctor, Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, UK)

floats, the TAO/TRITON array in the Pacific (USA and Japan), the PIRATA array in the Atlantic (France, USA and Brazil) and the IndOOS array in the Indian Ocean (India, USA and Japan). These basin-scale observing systems are subject to international coordination whereas design and implementation of coastal ocean observing systems are largely the responsibility of individual national efforts (Fig. 1.8).

Despite the limited progress in implementing ocean biogeochemical observing systems there is an increasing user pull for enhanced ocean forecasting capability that includes information about physics, biogeochemistry and ultimately ecosystem components. The biogeochemical and physical systems interact on a variety of processes and scales. Most notable is the impact of biology and associated attenuation depth of light on solar shortwave penetration and thus mixed-layer depth, and the corollary, the impact of suspended material on light scattering and penetration and biological production. Consequently, joint assimilation of physical and ecosystem observations likely will benefit both components though the challenges involved are manifold.

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