Ocean observations and forecasting in Ireland’s seas

Ocean observations and forecasting in Ireland’s seas. Photo Andrew Downes, XPOSUREThe Marine Institute uses ocean observation systems and marine research infrastructure to observe and understand how our ocean is changing, and the data collected is used to model and project the impacts of our changing oceans.

Dr Glenn Nolan, Oceanographic and Climate Services Section Manager at the Marine Institute said, "We work with local, national and European partners to develop and enhance integrated ocean and climate observation monitoring programmes. Ireland is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of efforts to better understand global ocean challenges and to provide essential national services in observing our changing ocean and climate."

The Marine Institute operates many platforms at sea and around the coast to understand the current state of the ocean around Ireland. Offshore buoys, autonomous floats and vehicles, ship-based measurements and tide gauge stations measure sea level, waves, temperature, salinity, oxygen, carbon, nutrients and ocean currents and usually relay the data back to land-based data centres in real-time. The data harvested from all of these platforms are used to drive ocean forecast models. These models allow us to forecast likely ocean conditions in the coming days and to project how our oceans will change in the coming decades. Insights can be gained into changes in sea level, ocean temperatures, ocean currents, as well as species and ocean ecosystems.

The Irish Marine Buoy Data Observation Network (IMDBON) funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is designed to improve weather forecasts and the safety of those working and pursuing leisure activities around the Irish coast. In addition to weather forecasting, the buoy network provides vital data for shipping bulletins, gale and swell warnings as well as data for general public information and research.

Buoy data is also helpful for validating numerical ocean computer models. The M6 buoy is deployed 400km west of the Aran Islands at a water depth of 3200m. All the marine data platforms provide critical data, but M6 is one of four European sentinel synoptic weather buoys that directly provide data to forecasting services covering the wider European continent.

The Irish Marine Buoy Data Observation Network forms part of the EirOOS (Éireann Ocean Observing System) critical infrastructure. EirOOS is a distributed group of platforms consisting of fixed buoys, shore side tide gauges, surface vessels like the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, as well as other surface platforms such as autonomous gliders. Sub-surface instruments are profiled from vessels and moored within the water column for long periods to provide information on a range of bio-geochemical observations.

Data acquired from the IMDBON and EirOOS are used to drive the atmospheric and ocean computer models, downscaled for use on the Irish shelf and in coastal waters. Ocean forecast models provide a high resolution forecast of the ocean for the coming days. Some of the parameters produced by forecast models include ocean temperature, salinity, currents and waves. The Marine Institute has provided Ireland's search and rescue services, the RNLI and Irish Coast Guard, with predictive models incorporating wind and tides to assist with search activities at sea. Buoy data help us improve the predictive skill of our ocean forecasts and are also used to correct biases in the climate models.

Data from the forecast and climate models and the observations are curated through a quality management framework. Funding through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund has allowed the development of this framework and has laid the foundation for better integration of marine data from various disciplines and themes to be better integrated both within the Marine Institute and at a national level.

These data are used by the Marine Institute to develop a range of targeted services across the marine sectors including aquaculture, fisheries and renewable energy. The climate models also support several European projects, such as CoClime and CE2COAST that aim to deliver important information to users as they plan how to adapt to climate change in the coming years. These services will be made available to different sectors of the Irish economy and to Local Authorities to plan their approaches to climate adaptation.

The Marine Institute's Oceans of Learning series this week focuses on our changing ocean climate. Oceans of Learning offers downloadable resources, videos and interactive activities. To access the resources visit A Changing Ocean Climate.

For more information on Oceans of Learning, visit www.marine.ie and follow the Marine Institute on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.