Ocean modelling and forecasting
The CSIR’s skills base in oceanography and marine science includes specialised knowledge and expertise in numerical ocean modelling. Using current state-of-the-art technologies, it remains difficult to describe ocean circulation and dynamics from measurements. Satellites can observe some processes almost everywhere every few days, but they observe only some processes and only near or at the surface. Ships, floats and gliders can measure more variables, and deeper into the water, but the measurements are sparse. Hence, numerical models provide the only useful, global view of ocean dynamics and our ability to forecast these. The coherent view of the ocean and predictive capability ocean models are integral for marine environmental monitoring, safety and resources (including fisheries), extreme weather prediction, as well as climate and seasonal forecasting activities.
Accurate forecasts of the marine environment are highly dependent on numerical ocean models, which need to incorporate ocean measurements. South Africa has a very strong interest in ocean modelling and forecasting capabilities, in particular with respect to Operation Phakisa, a national policy initiative to grow the ocean economy to contribute R20 billion towards the economy by 2019. Researchers at the CSIR are contributing towards the development of high-resolution, accurate ocean modelling capabilities by developing advanced ocean modelling and forecasting systems.
A fully integrated 3D marine and coastal monitoring and prediction system relies on three interconnected capabilities, namely high-resolution numerical ocean circulation and wave models capable of assimilating ocean measurements and downscaling global operational and scenario models, routine high-resolution earth observation available in real-time and at a wide range of temporal scales and access to in situ observational data, including gliders, ship-board measurements, buoys and other coastal measurement technologies, in real-time and archived. Currently, South Africa lacks the ability to routinely provide predictions and observations for the marine environment at sufficiently high spatio-temporal scales and certainties to be quantitatively useful for operational or climate change applications.
CSIR expertise in this area includes numerical ocean modelling and data assimilation, which provide the platform underpinning sea-state forecasts for maritime operations, capabilities for oil spill and trajectory modelling and storm surge predictions.