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Connecting the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Oceania around ocean science and service delivery

By Juliet Hermes, Manager, SAEON Egagasini Node
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The IOC-WMO Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) Observations Coordination Group (OCG) kicked off their 10th annual meeting with a regional workshop.

The meeting was co-hosted with the Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics of the Republic of Indonesia.

The aim of this event was to bring together the regional ocean and marine meteorology observing, forecasting and service delivery community to discuss ocean observing across a connected region.

This is an important year for the region, with several regional ocean observing initiatives delivering reports and perspectives on the development of the observing system, including IndOOS (Indian Ocean Observing System), WESTPAC and TPOS 2020 (Tropical Pacific Observing System). At a global level, GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System) will launch its 2030 Strategy.

Service delivery for societal benefit

The workshop provided an opportunity to look across the interconnected science, observing system, data and modelling, through to service delivery for societal benefit.

Delegates looked at questions such as: How can we integrate the outcomes of regional reviews (design, approach, etc.)? How can we identify new or improved ways to resource ocean observation objectives coming out of those regional reviews? How can we harness the legacy of important projects such as the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2) and Year of the Maritime Continent (YMC) for a sustained observing system? How can data and modelling be addressed at regional to local levels, so that observations can be used effectively for local and global benefit? How can the OCG ‘global’ networks support regional work? How can we communicate the role and purpose of JCOMM OCG and efforts such as IndOOS and TPOS2020 to regional scientists?

These questions formed the basis of the recent Ocean Observing in Africa workshop.

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The event was co-hosted with the Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics of the Republic of Indonesia

Enhancing regional coordination

It was hoped that delegates would be able to identify practical steps for enhancing regional coordination through the workshop dialogues, at an intersection of ocean regions, where the need for observations and downstream services are fundamental to safeguarding human well-being and to supporting a blue economy that is sustainable and respectful.

This was achieved to a certain extent, but presentations overran, which left little room for discussion. Fortunately, informal discussion took place during tea and lunch breaks and there is a plan to formalise these outcomes.

Prof. Juliet Hermes, manager of SAEON’s Egagasini Node, ran the session on regional modelling and connecting observations to services, followed by a noteworthy presentation by Gary Brassington of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. South Africa has interacted with Bluelink (the Australian ocean forecasting model) in the past and, with it now being produced at a much higher resolution over South Africa, we hope to enhance collaborations, particularly when SAEON’s Dr Jennifer Veitch heads to the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) meeting in Halifax.

During this session issues of global models at a regional level were highlighted, which led to discussions on how regional players can get involved (observations, feedback, liaising with GODAE) in these global modelling efforts. Delegates heard how different observing networks can influence ocean forecasts. It is important to understand this to be able to assess whether observing systems are optimal. This is done through observation simulation experiments whereby certain observations are removed from the assimilation forecast and assessment is done as to the effect on the accuracy of the model when these observations are removed.

The limited discussions focused on the following:

  • How can data and modelling be addressed at regional to local levels, so that observations can be used effectively for local and global benefit?
  • How can the OCG ‘global’ networks support regional work?
  • How can the role and purpose of JCOMM OCG and efforts such as IndOOS and TPOS2020 be communicated to regional scientists and operational agencies?
  • How do we build capacity, achieve more user uptake and develop capabilities of those in the region? and
  • How do we develop capacity at the international level better to address regional needs?  
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The workshop brought together the regional ocean and marine meteorology observing, forecasting and service delivery community

Although answers to these questions weren’t specified, some interesting debates were held, concluding that the need to discuss these issues further and come up with resolutions which focus on end users and society had to be given priority.

High-level meetings

The next three days were devoted to high-level JCOMM OCG meetings. The GOOS strategic plan was discussed, along with the roles of OCG and OOPC (Ocean Observing Panel for Climate).

Feedback on the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) indicated that the main problem for sustained ocean observing activities was the lack of clarity as to how the UNCLOS law of the sea applies to the networks. The realities are incompatible with the practices, making it difficult for observing systems, in particular voluntary observing ships and gliders.

With regards to argo, a notification system is in place to inform countries when argo floats drift into their EEZ and they can then choose what to do with the data. This was discussed in great detail in a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) workshop.

The networks gave feedback on their year’s activities and plans, much of which centred around the upcoming Ocean Obs19. Juliet introduced the plans for capacity development across networks as a specific target for OCG, with the next steps being to develop a pilot project in collaboration with the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel. This was well-received and Juliet has been tasked with the development.

Juliet’s presentation on best practices highlighted the difficulties involved in finding standard operating procedures and best practices for each network and how to resolve this, as well as the work being done by the Ocean Best Practices Working Group. This led to some excellent discussion and volunteers to move this work forward.

A large part of the workshop was spent discussing the planned reform to JCOMM, the workload of JCOMM OPS and the future strategy. Watch this space!

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