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A new Research Project: establishing a Spanish System of Operational Oceanography


On the 17 and 18 June a meeting was held at the head office of AZTI-TECNALIA in the Basque port of Pasaia to launch a new project for a Spanish System of Operational Oceanography. Working on the project are the principal research centres, bodies in the field of oceanography and meteorology as well as other agencies involved in coastal management such as the Spanish Ports Authority. More than 50 experts, national and international, bringing together a wide range of multidisciplinary experience, took part in the meeting.

The fundamental aim of the project is to create a Spanish system of operational oceanography capable of providing answers to emergency situations at sea, such as spills and monitoring of objects adrift. The system will combine services based on numerical modelling and on the analysis of oceanographic data, both past and in real time.

The Prestige accident has shown the need to develop a system of operational oceanography applied to the Spanish coast which will enable the prediction of currents and the direction of spills.

The services based on numerical modelling will provide predictions of all kinds of physical variables, both meteorological and oceanographic, particularly wind, currents, sea temperature, and sea swell and level. Moreover, they will enable the prediction of the direction and behaviour of spills and objects adrift.

Codes will be operative on three different spatial scales:
a) globally, with the aim of providing outline conditions
b) regionally, where a single response can cover all coastal areas in Spain
c) locally, where the various services will create high spatial resolution services able to deal with all coastal areas, either through specific applications in zones of high interest, or through rapid response models.

The development of these services will require a basic research effort, especially that involved in the modelling techniques of physical processes, data assimilation and model nesting. Those services based on data analysis will provide rapid access to processed information, necessary for decision-taking in emergency situations. The launching will demand the creation of new tools for data treatment. The results of this project will not be limited to dealing with crisis situations, but will mean a significant increase of knowledge about Spanish coastal waters and the tools at our disposal for the study thereof.

Raul Lopez de Gereñu | Basque Research
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