Ocean data: a European perspective

Periodic Table of the European Mar Elements

Figure: Periodic Table of the European Marine/Maritime Elements. © Valdes. L., 2013

Robert Huber, MARUM, University of Bremen

Maureen Pagnani, British Oceanographic Data Centre

With the rapid evolution of scientific methodologies and technologies during the last decades an enormous amount of data in ocean sciences has been and will continuously be generated in massive scale. Further, complex scientific challenges require international, interdisciplinary approaches resulting in extremely heterogeneous data sources to be analysed. This increase in experimental and observational data volumes and analytical complexity has leveraged a large shift in research practices from traditional hypothesis-driven approaches by domain experts towards data-driven approaches which involves computational analysis, networked sensors and data sources, data sharing, large numbers of researchers including crowd-sourcing and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Due to the scale and complexity of current scientific challenges such as global climate change, information is required on a very diverse set of parameters from different scientific fields ranging over ecosystem production, carbon budgets, biodiversity and ocean and atmospheric circulation. Development of large scale, world-class research infrastructures for collection of environmental data has been prioritized in recent year in Europe to assist environmental research and science-based decision making on environmental issues. FixO3 as a network of multidisciplinary fixed-point open ocean observatories as well as its integrated data management is embedded in such a European framework of projects and initiatives which operate domain specific services and provide complementary data offerings.

FixO3 is the current European Funded project which is a network of deep ocean observatories working together to harmonise their processes and technologies. FixO3 has built on the network originally developed in 2002 in the ANIMATE project which then grew to be the EuroSITES network, the European contribution to the global OceanSITES. EuroSITES has collected, harmonized and published a large amount of data over the past years which still are available via its data (FTP) infrastructure. The EuroSITES project ended in 2011, but the practices established within the programme have continued to be developed and used, particularly the OceanSITES format the as exchange standard within the MyOcean, now Copernicus, framework. FixO3 encompasses both Atlantic and Mediterranean observatories, but several of the Atlantic sites will also be actively contributing to the AtlantOS project launched this year. This will build on the previous integrations to become part of the AIOOS (Atlantic Integrated Ocean Observing System).

EMSO, the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and Water Column Observatory, has similar focus to fixed-point open ocean observatories which include several of FixO3 sites. EMSO aims to initiate a large-scale European Research Infrastructure (RI) with the basic scientific objective of real-time, long-term monitoring of environmental processes related to the interaction between the geosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. This multidiciplinarity is also reflected within the planned IT infrastructure which partly builds upon existing archive such as EuroSITES and PANGAEA but also cooperates with infrastructures of EPOS (European Plate Observing System) to manage its seismic data and carry out other initiatives. The coastal counterpart to these initiatives was the FP7 project Jerico, just ended, which aimed to construct a European infrastructure for coastal observatories. Jerico provides access to data from a dense network of near-coast monitoring stations with a focus on priority parameters such as temperature, salinity, acidity (pH), turbidity, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen (O2) and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2).

In addition to fixed point observatory networks, the EuroARGO research infrastructure provides oceanographic data collected by a large fleet of drifting profiling floats measuring temperature and salinity of the ocean. These data is distributed via global data assembly centers (GDAC).

SEADATANET is the network of 45 European National Data Centres. Working together they have created a standardized system for accessing the large and diverse data sets collected by the national oceanographic fleets and the automatic observation systems SEADATANET has further developed and maintains a variety of standards and controlled vocabularies required for the exchange of marine data.

Multidisciplinary marine data, predominantly collected by a large number of European governmental agencies, is available via the European Marine Data and Observation Network (EMODnet), which aims to be the integrated and inter-operable ‘network of systems’ of European marine observations and data communications. Several marine observatories are contributing to this initiative in particular to the EMODNET physics or chemistry portal. Data is offered via several Regional Operational Oceanographic Systems (ROOS) within the context of EuroGOOS, an International Non-Profit Organisation committed to European-scale operational oceanography within the context of the Global Ocean Observing System of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC GOOS).

The largest European player in the field of earth and environmental observation is Copernicus, the European Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). This large European programme focusses on data and service provision for policymakers and public authorities who need the information to develop environmental legislation and policies or to take critical decisions in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis. Copernicus collects data from multiple sources, it consists of a ‘space component’, which operates a fleet of earth observation satellite and offers a variety of remote sensing data, and a ‘in-situ component’, which collects data via in-situ monitoring networks (e.g. weather stations, ocean buoys and air quality monitoring networks) is used to calibrate and validate the data from satellites. The Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS) which evolved from the FP7 projects MyOcean and MyOcean2. CMEMS covers the marine and coastal environment by using information from both, satellite and in situ observations, provides daily weather analyses and forecasts thus providing the capability to observe, understand and anticipate marine environment events.

The European landscape of marine data infrastructures outlined above may appear unintegrated and scattered, but reflects how research infrastructures are typically specialized in collecting data from their specific scientific fields or specific environments. Within this complex and heterogeneous infrastructural environment, FixO3 aims at both, utilizing the existing data archiving infrastructure as well as making data discoverable within its own website to enable unified access to marine observatory data. The integration of data and information from these research infrastructures is a necessary and a continuing challenge. Policies for data accessibility, standards for data and metadata and protocols for quality control are not yet standardized either among research infrastructures operating within different scientific disciplines or among research infrastructures from different countries, but great progress has been made in sharing processes and policies and their convergence towards a fully integrated interoperable system is within sight.