A Framework for Ocean Observing

At the OceanObs’09 conference, you, the participants of the conference, adopted a Conference Statement which charged a working group with the task of developing a ”Framework for planning and moving forward with an enhanced global sustained ocean observing system over the next decade, integrating new physical, biogeochemical, biological observations while sustaining present observations … and taking best advantage of existing structures”.

This working group in the past 18 months developed this Framework for Ocean Observing (click to download).

The Framework is meant to help guide the many different global and regional organizations with a stake in an ocean observing system to work together in a voluntary collaborative way for mutual gain. It introduces the concept of Essential Ocean Variables, and of assessment and development of Readiness for sustained observations; and promotes collaboration in developing requirements, observing networks, and data and information streams. This common language is meant to guide participating organizations and programmes, and the entire ocean observing community, in finding and defining their niche and contribution in this larger Framework.

The team’s goal was to be the voice of the OceanObs’09 participants, speaking to the sponsors of the ocean observing system.

Your feedback on this is welcome in the comments below, which will remain open through 29 July 2011.

6 open review comments to “A Framework for Ocean Observing”

  1. Richard A. Feely says:

    Many thanks for distributing the draft Framework for Ocean Observing for review and comment. With regard to the section on ocean carbon and ocean acidification I want to point out that in several of the Plenary and Community White Papers we stressed the point that an appropriate global observing system must include the following:

    1. Repeat Hydrography (GO-SHIP)
    2. Surface Underway pCO2 Measurements
    3. Moorings (OceanSITES)
    4. Floats and Gliders.

    I suggest that the development of an integrated observing system network that utilizes some or all these activities should be mentioned in the Framework document and should be a part of the discussion of the “essential environmental variables” in terms of readiness because some variables are more “ready” on some platforms than others. Perhaps a function of the Ocean Observing Implementation Team activities could be the delineation of a network design that utilizes the best attributes of the available platforms and sensors. If so, this should be articulated in the Framework document.

    My concern about this draft Framework document is that unless each of these observing systems are mentioned in the Framework document (as you did for GO-SHIP) I fear that the Framework process will NOT address this important coordination issue and we’ll be left to deal with this problem as separate independent observing systems, as is precisely being done now. I strongly suggest that you reconsider this issue with your panel and give it careful consideration. The Framework document is much too important not give this important issue its due consideration.

  2. Kenneth Casey says:

    1. Page 20: GHRSST is “Group for High Resolution SST”, not “Global”
    2. Regarding the statement, “There is room for improvement, however, with some overlap and duplication of functions for which Framework processes can facilitate improved communications and negotiations.” As an active participant in GHRSST, I would argue that there is little, if any, wasteful duplication of effort. There is certainly room for improvement of course, but I would argue that in SST at least that improvement comes from enhanced leveraging of international activities, more rapid communication and implementation around the world of scientific advances made by the international community, and the significantly improved sharing of data (satellite and in situ).
    3. Figure 1 is not very readable… also, if “GHRSST GDAC” is shown to refer to the data management infrastructure for GHRSST it should say “GHRSST GDAC and LTSRF”, where LTSRF = Long Term Stewardship and Reanalysis Facility at US NODC. The GHRSST GDAC serves data for only 30 days, after which it is archived and provided to the community in perpetuity by NODC’s LTSRF. To say GDAC alone misses the largest part of the data management system.
    4. The overall framework approach of being driven by requirements is sensible, but I am afraid there may be a problem of scope here. In a project with reasonably small boundaries, collecting requirements and building to them makes a lot of sense. But as the project scales up to something as broad as a Framework for all ocean observing, the only set of requirements that everyone could possibly agree to would be extremely demanding… for example, people doing climate need obs that are stable and very accurate over long periods of time but can tolerate some delays in getting it, while people doing ocean forecasts just need reasonably accurate data and they need it right away. The only system that could meet both sets of needs would have to deliver extremely accurate data very quickly and in a sustained manner over decades… the cost of such a system would skyrocket. Building to requirements is not a bad thing, but perhaps different tiers of observing system components, or different subsets of the overall system each designed to meet a more specific set of requirements needs to be factored in to this Framework.

  3. p.5, section 3, 2nd para : JCOMM should be spelled out the first time it appears - Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM)

    p. 20, section 6, 2nd para under SST : Replace “Operational weather forecasting services worldwide maintain a database of SST requirements as a part of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) “Rolling Review of Requirements,”” by “the World Meteorological Organization maintain a database of observational user requirements - including SST in particular - for WMO Applications (e.g. numerical weather prediction, marine services, climate monitoring and applications, seasonal to inter-annual climate forecasting, hydrology, …) as a part of its “Rolling Review of Requirements,””

  4. Elizabeth Kent says:

    1) As someone with an interest in air-sea interaction I would argue that multi-variate observation platforms are not only convenient, but essential for many applications. Whilst it is clearly necessary to consider measurements of a particular variable across all contributing platforms the importance of measuring different parameters at the same place and time should not be forgotten.

    2) I am unclear as to the intended scope of the Framework. GCOS defines ECVs at the surface in both the oceanic and atmospheric domain. Both are needed for estimates of air-sea exchanges. The division of responsibilities for measurements in the atmosphere over the ocean has, to my mind, never been entirely clear between AOPC and OOPC. AOPC is not mentioned in the framework document. The document should be clear as to whether all GCOS ECVs measured in the atmosphere near the ocean surface are within the scope of the framework, and if so ensure that there is expertise on the steering group to cover this.

    3) GCOS ECVs are limited to those variables which are considered “feasible for global implementation and have a high impact on UNFCCC requirements” (although impact seems the wrong word there). The framework has broader scope (within the ocean and marine atmospheric domain) in that it is explicitly also considering variables not yet feasible for global implementation and does not restrict applications to climate. I can understand that the authors are reluctant to provide a list of EOVs but not to provide any information is problematic. Are any ocean or marine surface atmospheric ECVs not considered to be EOVs? One of the goals of the FOO seems to be to extend the ECV concept to include more non-physics variables. What are the priorities? We will never have all the money we need, I expected the framework to provide some mechanism to evaluate and prioritize candidates for ocean observing system expansion, enhancement or depreciation - but can’t really understand from the document how it would do this.

    4) The ESA Climate Change Initiative has put a lot of effort into the collection and assessment of user requirements and a lot has been learned, at least in the case of SST with which I was involved as a contributor. The ESA CCI collected information beyond what is available in the WMO Rolling Review of Requirements, for example the need for stability and for detailed error information in products. It would be good to build on this new information and to perform a review of the “rolling review” in terms of ensuring that all users requirements are captured (I can’t see the accuracy requirements for surface fluxes in there for example), that the requirements are assessed and streamlined where possible (not all groups of users actually know what they want) and that all the appropriate information is included. I suspect that exploring different ways of presenting the information, guided by the CCI experience, would help people to engage with the development of more robust and comprehensive user requirements. Not all the requirements can be adequately expressed by statements about spatiotemporal resolution, accuracy and timeliness.

    5) The Framework does not describe the need for adequacy assessments against the user requirements. Some observing system requirements have been expressed as a number of platforms (e.g. Argo, surface drifters) and these have tended to be those elements of the observing system that have reached their targets because it is easy to understand and to measure progress. When considering an integrated observing system combining many different types of platform with different accuracies and error dependencies it is harder to express requirements in this simple way. When user requirements were first developed they tended to be “back of the envelope” calculations because the information required to make more complex calculations was not available. The user requirements process should be a cycle of defining (and assessing) requirements, followed by assessment of the adequacy of the system which then feeds back to improved definition of user requirements and/or changes to the system design in a continuing loop. Considering climate applications, many datasets now have uncertainty estimates and we can use this information to develop observing system assessments and feedback information to those overseeing the implementation of the observing system. The importance of considering the correlation structure of uncertainty that feeds into adequacy assessments is increasingly being recognized, in particular the need to consider partial correlation (e.g. for observations from a single platform, platform type or under certain synoptic conditions) in addition to random and purely systematic uncertainties.

    6) I struggled to understand how the proposed Framework would sit alongside the other organizations that exist to do similar/related things, some of which are mentioned in the text. The Framework is clearly intended to be more than an umbrella for existing activities, and I suspect there are things that would be gained from the sort of approach outlined. But I think it needs to be clearer which elements the Framework process is intended to cover. I’ll take GCOS as an example. The GCOS IP has an ocean chapter - is that seen as providing the definitive word for those EOVs it covers? Or does the Framework plan to construct it’s own implementation plan, which would be a rather ambitious undertaking? Reading the document I didn’t get a good feel for the amount of work that was envisaged. I think it would be helpful to be specific about which elements are considered to be already covered and the Framework would just pull in information from another source, and where the serious work needs to be done. There’s potentially a lot of work to be done and I think the document needs to be clearer about the tasks, effort and the bureaucratic overhead that are envisaged so that these can be balanced against the benefits of the Framework. I can see that scientists involved in pre-ECV programs would likely perceive benefit in engagement, but the benefits for those involved with mature systems are less clear.

    7) I am also unclear about how the individual scientists who were authors of the OceanObs White Papers will contribute to the process. There are references in the document to outreach, and to various communities whose views will be sought. The governance structure relies heavily on the existing (and extensions to) the observing panel structures, plus the engagement of partners and sponsors. The several hundred OceanObs authors have already made an investment in the process, it would be good to explain how that cohort can become engaged with the Framework and hence remain engaged with OceanObs. Do they just sit around and wait to be asked by one of the panels to, for example, contribute to one of the expert reviews? Will anyone be ensuring that the Framework covers the interests of all of those encouraged to contribute to OceanObs papers? The Framework seems to be relying on familiar names (through the panels) who are already busy. As a contributing author of several white papers I have heard nothing from OceanObs for nearly 2 years, and am now asked to comment on a document which describes a process that it is not clear to me how I can contribute to.

    8) The importance of DOIs for data products is mentioned. I think it would be helpful to also talk somewhere about the need for unique observation IDs which it is being recognized are important for assembling datasets from different sources (e.g. identifying the real time equivalent of a delayed mode observation).

    9) Figure 1 has GHTSST instead of GHRSST

  5. R. Zaharia says:

    Congratulations for this work !

    I realize that many topics may be worth being included in this Framework for Oceanobs ! It is rather easy to find “Nice to have” features… that could be quoted here ! Being in retirement since 2000, I am not really in a position to assess if, and which, of the remarks below may be relevant, either in this document, or in some other one.
    In view of the holiday season, these issues could not be discussed inside Le Club de Argonautes before the closing date. They are only personal views that may, or may not, be supported by colleagues from the Club.

    R. Zaharia

    1) Capacity Building and improved awareness are mentioned, as well as Data Sharing. These good ideas are acknowledged with pleasure ! However, it seems to me that there exists a risk of convincing only those decision makers that already have sufficient awareness… (I guess that this Framework is intended to convince also some of… “those who need to be convinced”?!)
    For instance, I read on page 7:

    “For many in the ocean observing community, the concepts promoted in this report will require few behavioral or organizational changes, but will simply codify and strengthen existing successful practices.”

    While my experience as former TOPEX-Poseïdon and Jason series Cnes Program manager allows me to concur with this statement, I am concerned that useful ressources may exist outside the “ocean observing community”.

    For instance, in “UN family programs” (in particular those devoted to LME’s by the World Bank and/or the GEF), to the best of my knowledge, we lack a “rule of good practice” (or rather… a requirement !), to share in near real time any “ocean relevant” measurement that may be performed under this umbrella (e.g. as a task of the int’l program control & monitoring).

    From previous involvements in GOOS meetings, I maintain the feeling that even when awareness among UN officers is present, still… there are some “stupid questions” such as “Who should push where… or Who should pull from…” these data ? The tiny incremental work required… may hamper data sharing ! (since… “No resources have been allocated for this task which is clearly outside our program”.)

    The same loss of useful observations may occur in future industrial exploitation of Renewable Marine Energies, where, (at least in EEZ), requirements to monitor possible environmental impacts of such marine energy plants may be enforced.

    In my view, such possible waste of ressources should be adressed either in this Framework, or elsewhere, (including, in an ideal world… some deviation from current Law of the sea).

    2) I could not find any reference to the WWW of WMO: we have under our eyes several decades of World Weather Watch operations, in the framework of a set of intergovernmental agreements designed primarily to preclude a “data gap” somewhere in the (badly needed) global coverage of atmospheric and ocean surface conditions. At any time, such a data gap may result from a governemental shift in one particular member state government, (or from cuts in public funding following a debt crisis, for instance).

    Int’l programs and organisations are indeed important, but the WWW would not deliver, if there was not a broad network of national met agencies whose mandate is supported by these intergov agreements for continued operations… I wonder why this model, (where a set of permanent observations is recognised as a critical public infrastructure), could not be considerered… either to highlight its field proven advantages, or to correct its few pitfalls, including bureaucratic trends. (Thirty years ago… one of my colleagues -and a future director of WCRP- used to say: “En meteo, peu importe ce [l’obs] qui vient, pourvu que ça [elle…] vienne a l’heure !”)

    3) Consideration of the outcome of the Conference. Even though “a collective call from the conference participants” is mentioned in the Introduction (page 6), I could not find any reference to the Conference Statement (as well as to the Conference Summary).

    Given a well know trend of any new working, (or advisory), group to… get rid of constraints that could result from consideration of work by previous groups… I have a (bad) feeling that little may be saved from the work accomplished prior or during OceanObs09. This finding is reinforced by sentences such as: “For an observation requirement to drive a sustained global observation effort, it must be reviewed within the Framework according to several criteria…” (Parag. 4.3 page 17).

    I wonder what would happen if… (given the “mix of criteria and membership” within the contemplated Framework periodical reviews), a recomm. for discontinuing gravity field or SSH measurements emerged during such a review process ?

    Conversely, there may be some unknown, (at least to me), outstanding issue… that prevents the scientific community, (and on going climate process studies), to benefit from time series of oceanic surface winds of “Climate quality”: while present wind measurements seems to be adequate for mesoscale short term forecasting (including improvement of hurricanes trajectories), it is a pity that no single organisation exists that could be blamed for the current severe lack of confidence in the “climate change value” of long term series of oceanic wind. (There are almost as many trends in average oceanic wind as time series available…). It seems to me that a “GHRSST like” effort to improve this situation should be considered.

    4) I noticed a somehow excessive use of words like “increasing” (or increase: 15 occurences), and above all, of “societal” (or society: over 35 occurences).

    While the desire to convince that Global change deserves permanent global ocean measurements… is understood, it seems to me that a more comprehensive description of this overall requirement should be given (e g: “In a period of Global Change, a data gap in a time series of such and such geophysical parameter, may be an irrecoverable loss”, or some improved comprehensive explanation along this line !)

    5) Given the vastness of the ocean and the current situation of undersampling, repetitive and multi localised in situ measurements insuring global coverage are needed… In turn, this could call for some “grouped mass procurement of standardized sensors” to be considered, at least on a regional scale.

  6. The ultimate value of the data collected is in how it gets used, particular with an understanding that mutli-discipline, multi-variate data is required to deal with some of the complex issues facing the oceans, and in particular the shallow oceans (aka the coasts!).

    I would have liked to have seen a specific data integration component to the framework that drives both data integration between the various designated components and those new technologies / platforms that come into the framework and the delivery of high quality data and information products to both the scientific and environmental management community.

    Argo is put forward as the great success story but a key part of that success has been via its focus on data management and data quality. We have come a long way since then and to reflect this we need to up the focus and commitment to data, data quality, data integration and the extraction of knowledge from the data.

    Together we prosper, divided we fall! Integrate or perish…

    There are a number of new initiatives being developed as a partnership with IT and ecological observing that would/could dramatically change how ocean data is accessed, used and valued. yes this can be done piecemeal but you can do so much more if it is a fundamental component of the framework not as a tacked on bit of a smaller project.

    My thoughts!