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MyOcean Science Days

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Kyle’s visit to Paris gave him the opportunity to connect with fellow student Neil Malan of SAEON (centre)

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The poster presentation of the MyOcean Science Days facilitated a forum for further discussion of current and future work of the MyOcean/Copernicus program

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Kyle took time out to visit some of the famous landmarks of Paris

By Kyle Cooper, SAEON MSc Student

The 2014 MyOcean Science Days, an Open Science Conference on Operational Oceanography, marked the ending of MyOcean 2, the European initiative for Operational Oceanography. The conference was held in Toulouse, France.

A number of unique sessions were run to include the different elements of ocean forecasting, such as observing systems; upper ocean modelling; model data synergies (data assimilation); predicting the living ocean; and past, present and future ocean state. The sessions included both oral and poster presentations that explored these topics in detail.

The observing systems session focused on the development of new observing systems, and reported back on existing systems. These consisted of quality checked and comprehensive synthesised products that can be used in forecasting systems.

The oral presentations zoomed in on the extension of the Bio-Argo network, the use of gliders with fixed buoys, an updated and improved mean dynamic topography, new sources of high spatial and temporal resolution of Ocean Color and a future possibility of a geostationary Ocean Color satellite. The Ocean Color presentations highlighted the use of high resolution (temporal and spatial) satellite images and potential applications with offshore wind farms and their environmental impact.

The poster presentations were mainly technical. A poster titled "A new sea surface height based code for mesoscale oceanic eddy tracking" was highly relevant from a South African perspective due to the impact of eddies in the local ocean systems and our current work on eddies.

A second poster presented an updated version of the CORA (Coriolis Ocean database ReAnalysis) observational database, a global oceanographic temperature and salinity dataset produced and maintained by the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER). This database is vital as it is quality controlled, can be used on global and regional scales, for validation of numerical models and assimilation into numerical models.

Ocean modelling

The upper ocean modelling and model data synergies sessions were highly technical and focused on regional seas and European research initiatives. Noteworthy presentations included an overview of coupled forecasting by the UK Met Office, the improvements made by MyOcean in global ocean simulations and the TAPAS initiative. This initiative serves as a great example of taking a product (a satellite in this case) from research to operational status. An overview of the UK Met Office is starting to run a global ocean forecasting coupled model aimed at improving forecasts with biogeochemistry and atmospheric components.

A number of notable poster presentations investigated the North West European shelf with a high resolution physical model, however the results were preliminary and the work is still ongoing. Another interesting poster investigated the impact of mesoscale eddies in the Western Mediterranean using both observations and high resolution modelling. The results were significant, showing that satellite observations were of a too coarse resolution to correctly show the dynamics of the region, while other observations were too sparse. This emphasised the need for numerical models to investigate the circulation at finer spatial scales.

Predicting the living ocean

The poster presentations served as a useful introduction to the next session, which concentrated on predicting the living ocean. The session focused on the extension from physics to biogeochemistry, biology and ecosystem monitoring.

Oral presentations that highlighted the theme included the development of capacity for ecosystem forecasting within the MyOcean initiative; eutrophication index from ocean color; and operational ecosystem forecasting in the Baltic and Black seas. The expansion of forecast systems to the ecosystem level is mainly due to user demand. Although this segment of ocean forecasting is important, it is still being developed and is therefore not operational as yet.

The state of the ocean

The last session of MyOcean Science Days focused on the past, present and future ocean state, which concentrated on the hindcasts or reanalysis products within MyOcean. The session included the application of these products in national and international programs.

Oral presentations included an update for the future of the global Mercator Ocean analysis and forecasting with a high resolution, the current operational products in the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the coupled environmental prediction in Canada, and the development of a coupled biogeochemical and physical model for the Indonesian seas.

There were a number of notable poster presentations in the session, specifically the report back on the users of MyOcean. Two presentations focused on the downstream application of the products and the statistics on the activity of the MyOcean service desk, which gave the perspective from the user base. The work showed that there are a number of uses for the MyOcean products that lie outside of research and are applicable to industry.

My own presentation within this session, titled "Evaluating global ocean reanalysis systems for the greater Agulhas Current System", was generally well received. Interaction over the poster resulted in positive feedback as well as some constructive criticism and suggestions. These will be applied to the work before it is published.

I had an informal discussion with a German technician, Simon Jandt, about his current work to build a graphical user interface for easy and fast representation of model data. We discussed the possible challenges and progress of his work, sharing my experience with model data and demonstrating the toolboxes that I used during the work for my Masters. The resulting correspondence, which has continued past MyOcean Science Days, promises to lead to the development of a relevant tool that will be highly beneficial to the modelling community.

I found the MyOcean Science Days conference to be a highly beneficial experience due to my exposure to the diverse presentations and discussions. I was able to discuss my work with experts in the field of data assimilation and the feedback of the MyOcean product used in my work was well received. The exposure to the different forecasting efforts of other countries was invaluable and key lessons can be learnt and applied to a South African context.

After I left Toulouse I journeyed to Paris, where I met South African PhD student Sarah Nicholson at the Pierre and Marie Curie University. Through this connection I was able to visit and briefly interact with a foreign laboratory and a number of scientists who work in a variety of fields, including local South African research interests such as the Southern Ocean.

Although the visit was short, it was significantly beneficial being able to experience the laboratory, meet the researchers and inform my decision for a PhD.

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