Waves and operational oceanography: Toward a coherent description of the upper ocean



The availability of new operational services for ocean circulation modeling presents a unique opportunity to rethink the operational forecasting of ocean waves and how circulation and waves may be combined to provide a better understanding of the upper ocean and enhanced services to society. The largescale oil spill caused by the wreck of the tanker Prestige off the Spanish coast in November 2002, and uncertainties on the fate of that pollution, illustrated the gaps in means of observations and knowledge of relevant processes.

The idea of a coupled atmosphere-wavesocean model was proposed by Klaus Hasselmann [Hasselmann, 1991], in the context of climate modeling. As waves are the “gearbox” between the atmosphere and the ocean, a detailed understanding of waves can significantly improve the parameterization of air-sea fluxes and surface processes. Besides, Earth observation systems rely extensively on satellite remote sensing techniques for surface winds, temperature, sea level, ocean color, and sea ice, all affected by surface waves. Hasselmann viewed the future of wave modeling as the development of this central gearbox of a general Earth observation and monitoring system, providing fluxes between ocean and atmosphere in a way consistent with satellite observations. This vision, though slow to materialize, is highly relevant for short-term forecasting in the coastal ocean.