Marine Systems Modelling

Marine Systems Modelling

The National Oceanography Centre is a world-leader in numerical modelling of the global oceans and shelf seas. This includes modelling the ocean circulation and heat transport, marine ecosystems, sea-ice, turbulence, surface waves, sediment transport, tides and storm surges.

Our science has the following aims.

  • To develop and maintain existing world-leading models which are individually applicable to the global oceans and shelf seas with an ability to couple such models together
  • To develop a new world-leading modelling system which is seamlessly applicable to the deep-ocean, shelf and coastal seas and estuaries, and is highly efficient on the next generation of super-computers
  • To develop a unified UK ecosystem-modelling framework that encompasses appropriate levels of complexity, and the embedding of this within the new physical modelling systems
  • To work with partners to develop global models of the climate system, including high-resolution ocean and atmosphere components, sea-ice, and other components of the earth system
  • To develop a regional earth system modelling capability for shelf seas, including waves, sediments, ecosystems, ice, hydrology, land surface and atmospheric modelling
  • To establish the NOC as an international leader in the prediction and understanding of the impacts of climate and direct anthropogenic change on the marine environment.


NOC’s scientists investigate the role of oceanic processes in determining Earth’s mean climate, its natural variability – including extreme events and its response to external and anthropogenic forcing. We aim to improve the ability to predict regional climate change on seasonal-centennial timescales by developing and applying methods to quantify and reduce uncertainty in key areas, such as: knowledge of surface fluxes, ocean and climate projections based on numerical models, observing strategies, and how observations are compared to model simulations.

We use leading-edge modelling approaches to understand the present state of global-scale biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems. Our models are used to predict how future climate change and ocean acidification (among other changes) will impact the role of the ocean biota in ecosystem services and socio-economic aspects of the oceans. This research is organised around three core activities – climate change modelling; high resolution modelling of biophysical interactions; and development of the next generation UK marine biogeochemistry model.

We study the impact of decadal scale change on shelf and coastal seas, working with fine resolution shelf sea and basin-scale regional models. We investigate how climate variability and change, alongside direct human induced drivers, propagate from oceanic, terrestrial and atmospheric source through the marine system to impact on the services provided by the marine environment and the hazards posed. We consider the hydrodynamic environment and its interaction with ecosystems.

Scientists at the NOC develop tools and studies processes to better understand the dynamic controls for shelf seas and coastal zones. Employing high performance computing, researchers work with a range of regional model configurations (both structured and unstructured) from the global shelf seas, simulating scales from centimetres to thousands of kilometres.

World-leading ocean-sea-ice models are developed by researchers at NOC to study ocean dynamics including internal variability and the response to changes at the air-sea interface. The group also undertakes model-observation synthesis studies to gain insights into key processes (e.g. ocean heat uptake, high-latitude North Atlantic temperature variability).


NOC projects associated with this science area.