Professor Adrian New, Head, Marine Systems Modelling Group, National Oceanography Centre
The National Oceanography Centre is one of the world’s leading oceanography research centres and comprises two sites at Southampton and Liverpool.
At the National Oceanography Centre there are three primary sources of data. There’s observational data that’s collected when we go to sea or by remote autonomous vehicles. The second is computer generated simulations, and the third are satellite data sets that come from a range of satellites and space agencies.
We need to collect observational data sets over periods of decades to form reliable estimates of how the ocean is changing on the climate time scales.
Two good examples are, firstly, the Rapid Array. It’s a monitoring array at 26 degrees north right across the Atlantic and this is monitoring the strength of the circulation in the Atlantic. The rapid array has been collecting data since 2002 and it’s just been extended. That will give a 15-20 year coverage which is what you need to be able to have a good statistical estimate of whether the Atlantic circulation is really changing or not. This is a completely unique data set in the world.
The second example is the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level. The Permananent Service for Mean Sea Level has been collecting data from a network of tide gauges for several decades.
The observational data is collected on various research cruises that tend to be along section across a basin, from say Europe to North America, but just a single section. Or they are at particular locations where moorings might be for several years or decades so they are very sparse or scattered in their coverage.
The model data sets give complete global coverage down to 10 kilometre resolution. Jointly with the Met Office we’re using the ocean models to couple to atmospheric models of the climate system and we have a joint programme of research to investigate, for instance, how the North Atlantic might change in the future and how this will influence European climate.
In the future there are other potential applications of the model output. For instance, to look at oil spills: if there is an oil spill somewhere, where is the oil going to go? You could also use it to see where albatrosses in the South Atlantic tend to gather, where the currents are strongest and where the food sources might be most prevalent.
NERC owns the British Atmospheric Data Centre, British Oceanography Data Centre, and the Earth Observation Data Centre. All data is freely available from the NERC data centres.