During my tour as the liaison oceanographer at the Office of Naval Research's European branch, I conducted a focused study of coastal ocean forecasting systems. This study is of direct interest to ONR because of an increased interest in the coastal zone and to the civilian U.S. oceanographic community because of numerous problems in the coastal zone that could be alleviated with an operational forecasting system. The Europeans have a long history of excellent research and developmental work in this area.
The Europeans' distinguished history in coastal ocean forecasting is due in part to their strong dependence on the sea. However, the original motivation for these systems was the recognition early in this century that weather conditions were responsible for damaging storm surges around the periphery of the North Sea and that science could predict these catastrophic floods. Forecasting systems called tide-surge prediction systems, which provide warnings of impending flood conditions, were designed and constructed and are operational in the various meteorological centers of the nations surrounding the North Sea. Over time, the services have been extended to provide forecasts of ocean waves, water depth for navigation, and currents for a large customer base. These systems now are being extended further into the three-dimensional domain that is required for management of problems associated with water quality, pollution, and aquaculture and fisheries interests.