Maritime Forum

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Copernicus marine service in-situ requirements

Published on: Wed, 13/03/2013 - 07:04
Table of Contents


    This note presents a short summary of the analyses carried out by GISC relating to essential in-situ data and the observing systems. It also outlines how these systems could be framed for the maintenance and reinforcement of a portal, providing real time access to physical measurements and integration of information system with Copernicus programme.

    The briefing also presents the work that was carried out by GISC in identifying the essential marine data sets, needed for the marine service and explains the case study – the EuroArgo quick-win in detail, which proofs to demonstrate on how the research infrastructure can provide data in support of the Copernicus programme.



    The in situ data needed for the existing marine service were identified in consultation with MyOcean and with support from the Eionet European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine waters. The baseline for identification of the in situ data needs was the current application portfolio of MyOcean covering global, pan-European and regional seas.

    All identified marine in situ data were analysed and subsequently prioritised as essential, desirable or useful. The prioritisation was done based on a number of parameters, including: a) Criticality (the degree to which data are assimilated in real time in MyOcean models and the provision of constraints on the MyOcean model products); b) Use of data (is data used for production and/or near real time validation or verification); c) Fitness for purpose (does the data specifications match the service requirements); d) Access/data policy (is the data fully and openly available); e) Quality/coverage (is the data available in the right quality and coverage).

    The essential in situ requirements for the marine service are centred on the following data sets:

    • sea surface temperature and salinity
    • sea level
    • sea ice and wind
    • currents
    • ocean colour[1]
    • biogeochemical measurements.

    Research infrastructures providing essential data:

    This data is currently provided to MyOcean via different types of observing systems, such as Argo floats, research vessels, buoys, surface moored arrays, tide gauges and drifters, seabed observatories, regional and coastal observatories, long-range HF radar, CPR and coastal profilers.  A large share of these observing systems are encompassed and funded by national governmental agencies and research organisations and contribute to regional collaboration in the framework of operational observing systems such as the Regional Ocean Observing Systems (the ROOSs).

    European research dependent observation platforms identified by GISC

    EuroArgo (below a description) is one of the core observing systems supporting the marine service, offering a unique global platform, it is not the only essential observing system. Thus, prioritisation is important and should be based on the determination of the impact of the different observing systems on the marine service performance. Such analyses would be a fundamental task of a future In Situ Data Coordinator in support of advanced statements on their respective importance and funding.

    1. Argo/EuroArgo is an array of around 3,000 profiling floats that provide observations from the global oceans. Data gathered by Argo floats are vital for operational oceanographic forecasting, ocean climate monitoring and long range prediction. It profiles of Temperature, Salinity (dissolved salt content) and pressure (depth) between the surface and 2,000 metres. New sensors will measure biochemical parameters such as chlorophyll a and dissolved oxygen, Nitrate, Carbon. Argo data are freely available without any restrictions, both in real-time (within 24 hours of data transmission) and in ‘delayed-mode’ after scientific quality control. The establishment of the EuroArgo ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) will be the legal entity to manage governance and technical co-ordination within Europe. Through the setting up of the ERIC, Member States contributions will be consolidated and the intergovernmental ERIC structure should be a good means to improve sustainability. Float procurement at regional level and overall operation costs will mainly be funded by Member States however a funding gap exists. A European contribution is required to maintain the Global array. A European contribution could also be used to co-fund the European management and co-ordination costs (please see below the EuroArgo case study).


    1. EuroSites/OceanSites for temperature and salinity profiles and currents (and in some cases pCO2, nitrate, O2, atmospheric measurements) covering mainly the Atlantic margins and the Mediterranean Sea. EuroSITES provide important data sets for assimilation into operational models as well as near real time validation or verification of model output.

    EuroSITES is co-funded by the European Commission and member states. It is the EC funding which make integration and enhancement of nine deep-ocean observatories in to coherent network possible. The network provides freely available data for model validation, especially biogeochemical data and long reference time series. A recent gap in funding for EuroSites caused loss of capacity and observations.


    1. Ferrybox Ship data for biogeochemical analysis and ocean surface temperature, salinity and turbidity covering European and marginal seas. Also water surface reflection is measured for calibration of satellite sensor data. Ferrybox relies on R&D funding to maintain and extend the network of observations platforms for different variables that can be provided in near real time. Collaboration with MyOcean has started to provide data in particular for validation purposes. GISC has investigated opportunities for using PPP to solve part of the Ferrybox equation.



    Other high priority in situ infrastructure for MyOcean  

    Drifting buoys for example from the global drifter array which provide validation of surface currents. E-SURFMAR is at present supporting a handful of moored buoys which are used to validate predictions from European shelf-seas and wave models. Other observation platforms, which deliver data categorised as desirable in-situ data for the marine service, include Everyone Gliding Observatory (EGO) and Gliders for Research Ocean Observation and Management (GROOM). Also the Global Ocean Surface Underway Data (GOSUD) and the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP) are relevant in their capacity to meet marine in situ data needs.

    A case study: EuroArgo Quick Win

    This case study is as an example on how a European research infrastructure (RI) and its data centre can provide full and open access to essential in-situ data in support of Copernicus programme. The case study demonstrates approaches on how the observing infrastructure should be run and operated in a sustainable manner, and in equitable partnership between national and EU partners, which could lead to more sustainable funding regimes. While Member State contributions should and will in the future remain the main source of funding for the purchase and operation of EuroArgo, additional funding for operations is needed to sustain the European contribution to the global array. The Marine service needs access to continuous and reliable observations from the research infrastructure projects. In its capacity of in-situ coordination, the GISC team has prioritised the marine essential data sets and identified issues of sustainability peculiar to all research infrastructure projects, providing these data. The GISC project acted as facilitator in addressing these issues at the EU Commission level and also provided support in identifying some other EU funding mechanisms. Therefore, as result of the quick-win implementation process, the GISC project prepared an unsolicited proposal on procedural chain required to procure, deploy and process Argo floats.The report and its technical specifications could serve as basis for drafting a call for tender in support for the EuroArgo programme from the 2014-2020 budget under “physics” heading.


    Preparing for an operational marine service.

    The overview of the ‘in situ landscape’ for the marine service acquired by GISC to date has identified sustainability of in-situ observations to be critical for ensuring data continuity and hence it could be advisable that a funding strategy for different categories of in-situ observations is developed at EU-level. It appears to be critical that Copernicus in the future will support on-going research founded initiatives and facilitate moving them into the operational domain.

    In developing a funding strategy, it is very important to keep focus on the whole picture:

    • Firstly, there are various research projects and research infrastructures providing essential data to MyOcean and the future marine service.
    • Secondly, although the ROOSs are nationally embedded, observation capacity is partly research-funding dependent, and the responsibility for their long term sustainability should be considered. This may also be the case for other non-research funded infrastructures like nationally funded monitoring observations.
    • Thirdly, it is crucial to keep a balanced perspective across the whole range of services incl. land, atmosphere and emergency response, where support to sustaining essential in situ infrastructures can also be justified.
    • And lastly, it also appears that there will be a need to assist in defining new initiatives based on the outcome of the expected service evolution process.

    If a Copernicus in-situ funding strategy cannot be developed, it may be necessary to accept a less-than-optimal service quality when essential observations are no longer available. Ultimately, this may cause such loss in quality that the service is no longer relevant for users and should be discontinued. It is also clear that the multi-purpose nature of the networks and observing systems calls for multi-source funding solutions balancing both MS contributions and different EC funding lines. Copernicus should therefore be considered part of the solution – not the only solution.



    [1] Derived (chlorophyll)