Background to the foresight session steering committee

In March 2012 organisations that are partners of Mercator-Ocean asked the GMMC scientific advisory board to organise a scientific foresight session on the various aspects of French Operational Oceanography in order to come up with a common vision of the challenges, objectives and research projects to be undertaken over the next 10 years, while taking into account the context of European investment already made in the field over the last 15 years. A foresight session steering committee was thus set up and it organised a series of work sessions and conferences involving a wider group of scientists. The committee wrote a draft foresight-report based on this work, which was then submitted to the scientific community for review between 19 July and 28 September 2013. A final report was then drawn up following the steering committee’s review of the draft report.

Review analysis

We would like to sincerely thank our colleagues for taking the time to analyse the report and giving us their feedback. The comments we received can be broken down into 3 main types:

  1. Very specific comments, suggesting corrections or making specific suggestions which we were able to incorporate quickly into the report.
  2.  Comments which required organising further discussion and that we were not able to include in the report even though some of them led to significant changes being made to the initial wording.
  3.  Comments on institutional aspects or which concerned the specific operational strategies of the organisations and that we considered to be more relevant for an implementation plan than a science foresight session and that we therefore did not take (or not much) into account.

Since the report did not take into account all of the comments made by the community, we believe that the entire content of the review should be made available to the community. Our colleagues have thus agreed to our publishing all of the comments we received, along with the draft report on which the review was based (published on July 16th 2013) as well as the final report corrected after the review (published on October 10th 2013).

The page numbers have changed from one version of the report to the other. The references used in the review are those of the draft report. We did however take care to ensure that the section numbers remained the same.

Comments from the review

Commentaires by Cyril Lathuilière et al. (SHOM, 10 September 2013)

Comments of Cindy Lebaupin Brossier (CNRM, 20 September 2013)

While reading the scientific foresight document for Operational Oceanography, I noted a few minor points (2) as well as a question (1), particularly concerning O/A interaction issues


  • For regional systems and especially those in coastal zones, what opportunities are there, or rather, what might the (future) need be for the community to set up multi-compartment observation networks? Furthermore, how would they coordinate/cooperate/interact with the other operational services (meteorological in particular, but also possible flood forecasting services for abnormal levels and river floods for example), particularly for managing such networks?
  •  For integrated regional and coastal systems, should we not consider issues around coupling with data assimilation and particularly for the “Future Data Assimilation and OSSE’ project?
  •  The issue of assessing atmospheric forcing at various scales should be re-considered in a workshop, perhaps on “dynamics of surface layers’ and we should of course encourage atmosphere specialists to get involved.


3.2.3. Quality considerations for specific events. ->Ocean fronts, vertical stratification and the thermal content of the mixing layer are crucial for forecasting specific meteorological events (cyclones, storms, Cevenole episodes, monsoons, breezes, etc.) which means we need better representation of ocean-atmosphere exchanges.

5.1 (we should start) building and implementing high-resolution coupled systems especially for weather forecasting,

R8. improving accuracy of the physical data in order to improve processing of the atmospheric forcing (forcing resolution, parameterization of flows or the atmosphere/marine boundary layer).

R14. We should investigate whether the coupling with the CLAM could add value and whether we should work towards a regional coupled O/A system, especially for the metropolitan coastline, in close partnership with Météo-France.

5.3.3. This study should also consider the need to improve estimates of surface flows at all scales by means of parameterization and/or interactive coupling with an atmospheric model. Here are some examples….

6 Move from the concept of a forced system to that of ‘weak’ O/A coupling -> to that of interactive systems (including the atmosphere and waves) depending on the methodologies to be defined.

Pascale Delecluse (Météo France, 23 September 2013)

I found the foresight document you worked so hard on, very interesting. Here are a few more or less significant comments, to help you finalise the document.

Philippe Bougeault (Météo France, 26 September 2013)

In accordance with your suggestion, here are my comments on the draft document on Operational Oceanography foresight.

Patrick Marchesiello (LEGOS / IRD, 27 September 2013)

These comments were made by some of the IRD researchers/engineers. The document was circulated to all of the oceanographers at the IRD and evolved to take the comments into account. It thus reflects a substantial proportion of our community but not all of it. Nor is it an official message from the IRD which may be coming as well.

Raymond Zaharia (CNES, 27 September 2013)

As promised, herewith below a few questions or suggestions. The more I dip into this OO foresight document, the more I find it well done and relevant! However, though I may be wrong (because there are some points I’m not clear about) it appears to be missing a few items, though I am not able to say how important they may be! (I’m deliberately trying to cover as much as I can, but will be relieved if it turns out that my fears are not justified).

The subjects I think are missing are:

“Climate Reprocessing”, by which I mean: “New efforts to establish *Climate quality* a posteriori based on observations which were not made for that purpose”! The idea is to promote/request a new episode similar to ESA’s Climate Change Initiative which was quite successful, among others, with respect to the MSL (in that it enabled convergence between the Envisat and Jason-1 time series). Would it be possible to envisage a similar approach for surface wind observed by scatterometers and altimeters? By improving forcing we should be able to improve the quality of Glorys type analyses, shouldn’t we ?   (or by increasing the already significant duration needed for a forecast to be realistic?).

2) Communication plan : the number of stakeholders concerned by progress of Operational Oceanography (OO) is increasing and they are scattered around the world., consequently I think there is a great risk of duplication and especially of people not using the OO (since they ignore the capabilities we’ve invested in), particularly as far the coastal domain is concerned ! (for details of the ONERC, BRGM meeting at the beginning of September, see below).   More specifically, I’m wondering whether the format of the GMMC days is still suitable for the many different stakeholders involved in the coastal domain. Shouldn’t the proponents of OO make a greater effort to ‘colonize’ other professional meetings? (whether for coastal risks or for the Exact Repeat Missions (ERMs), among others!).

3) Finite element models: These concern 1/36 or 1/108 of a degree, but never MEF/FES!  IF (which I’m not sure about), some significant stakeholders (LNHE?) use MEFs (which is not generally the case for the “offshore community”), is the issue of coupling between a ‘Cartesian grid’ model (that may not be the right term!) and an MEF covering part of the coastline being done properly?

Fabrice Hernandez (IRD/Mercator-Océan, 27 September 2013)

Yann Drillet (Mercator Ocean, 28 September 2013)

Herewith a contribution from the whole of the Mercator R&D department to enable you to respond constructively, I hope, to the foresight document. We’re looking forward to meeting you soon to conclude discussions on this subject and to finalise this document, as it is important to us.

Florence Cayocca (Ifremer, 29 September 2013)

These comments are not a reply on behalf of our organisation as a whole to the version of the foresight document we were asked to reread: they are only reactions which are widespread in the coastal community. The foresight document does in fact reveal the lack of precision or mistakes due to a very immature fusion between the offshore and coastal communities. In its attempt to ignore the historical differences between these two communities, both in the report and in the foresight document, the document spreads some confusion.

We have written these comments in order to help improve the initial document which is a worthy basis on which to build: the comments aim to give a fair and honest description of the report and to propose a foresight document which better takes into account the achievements of operational offshore and coastal models and which best identifies the objectives for future operational oceanography covering the two domains and the means needed to achieve this.

Boris Dewitte (LEGOS/IRD)

Generally speaking, as a long-standing user of Mercator products and as a collaborator, I am very enthusiastic about this foresight document for several reasons.

I agree with the comment that “researchers should get involved in operational centres” help improve the system and products.

My specific comment is about Section 5.3:

A significant undertaking which I think is too mixed up with the others is that of ocean/atmosphere coupling which interfaces with forecasting. Such work might lead to an improvement in the quality of products in some regions (e.g. Eastern Edge-current systems). This research work could be dealt with separately since several communities would find it easier to identify with it and thus participate in the undertaking suggested in the foresight document.

From the seasonal forecasting perspective, forecasting systems run into the initialisation shock problem which may be attenuated by initialising the forecasting model with “corrected” products. The latter may be obtained in various ways, the simplest being the nudging method which consists in combining the coupled model solution and the Reanalysis. These initial conditions may also be produced both in coupled or semi-coupled mode. “semi-coupled’ refers here to partial coupling methods (e.g. coupling only on flows or anomalies) or using an ocean model with an atmospheric mixing-layer model (slab). This would no doubt require further development but it should enable a qualitative leap in improvement of forecasting products (this has been demonstrated in simplified systems) and could be considered as an effort to increase added-value significantly.

On the regional scale, in upwelling systems (which are generally very productive), the Reanalyses indicate significant bias which might be due to a poor estimation of the rotation of mean wind in ECMWF products on the regional scale (a bias which has also been observed in downscaled atmospheric products of the CORDEX type). These biases are increased by coupling in global coupled models (a recurrent issue from CMIP3 to CMIP5). This obstacle has to be overcome for downstream applications (bio coupling). One line of research currently investigated by the community interested in these regions (the IRD community is highly involved) consists in studying the fine-scale ocean-atmosphere interactions (regional to mesoscale) and developing the coupled ocean-atmosphere regional platform. These developments could help define strategies/methods for improving Mercator products in these specific regions.

Scientific Foresight Steering Committee

Bahurel Pierre Mercator Ocean
Barnier Bernard GMMC (President)
Brasseur Pierre GMMC (former President)
Dombrowsky Eric Mercator Ocean
Dumas Franck PREVIMER
Le Traon Pierre Yves PREVIMER
d’Ortenzion Fabrizio GMMC (member of the Scientific Advisory Board)
Pouliquen Sylvie CORIOLIS