Environmental Prediction

Seasonal Environmental Forecasting

In the next five years, we aim to take significant steps in the advancement of our knowledge concerning environmental prediction on timescales of days to centuries

The challenge

The prediction of national and global weather and natural hazards, helps avoid danger to people and property and facilitates economic activity. In the ocean, some of the things we want to predict are tides and storm surges (on the time-scale of a few days) and changes in mean sea level and ocean circulation (on tide-scales of seasons to centuries), as well as harmful algal blooms and changes in ocean productivity and ecosystems. However, the prediction and analysis of these events on a time-scale of days to centuries faces many challenges, including refining the model resolution (which is generally restricted by computing power), obtaining the necessary atmospheric forcing (winds, sea level pressure, surface heating and evaporation-precipitation), and parameterising sub-grid-scale processes (this means describing the effects of turbulent eddies smaller than the model grid-size).

At the NOC we are involved in many areas of ocean model development, some of which specifically address the issues of environmental prediction. For example, scientists at NOC developed and help maintain the surge forecasting model for the UK, in collaboration with the Met Office. We are also members of the core development team for the NEMO model (Nucleus of European Modelling for the Ocean), a European collaborative model which is used for global and shelf-scale modelling by NOC and the Met Office. We continue to develop regional models at higher resolution e.g. for the UK shelf and adjacent North Atlantic at 1nm resolution. We also use a range of other models e.g. the FVCOM unstructured grid model which uses a triangular mesh for fitting coastal geometry, as well as wave models. We are involved in projects to develop an understanding of hydrodynamic and wave coupling and implementing these processes into the models we work with, to improve the accuracy of predictions.

Our science

We focus on understanding the processes of the global ocean and the coastal zone to make predictions about the environment. This includes the ocean’s responses to, and impacts of, extreme weather, well as changes in sea level due to global warming. We also observe and predict the transport of chemical or biological processes, for example investigating the present and future intrusion of salt water into the Bangladesh Delta, due to sea level rise and changes in precipitation, which affects water quality and limits the potential for poor farmers to irrigate their rice crops (espadeltas.net).

The benefit to society

By providing the best possible evidence on which to make informed decisions about how to protect communities from natural disasters, such as coastal flooding, NOC’s world-class research helps protect people and businesses. Furthermore, NOC’s environmental prediction can help facilitate economic activity, for example; by providing evidence about how best to harness marine energy or access marine resources.