The role of the coasts in the large-scale ocean circulation has been recognized since the beginning of modern oceanography and meteorology. Coasts are the waveguide for tidal waves and Kelvin waves, and play a key role in the dissipation of ocean energy. They are sources of energy for baroclinic Rossby waves crossing the ocean basins
and accumulating energy in western boundary currents. Coasts shape specific upwelling/downwelling processes, are regions of freshwater influence from rivers and glaciers. Coasts interact strongly with slope currents, and lastly they are the sites where marine biogeochemistry and physics connect to produce the largest atmospheric CO2 sinks.
Despite these key issues, the “generic” understanding of the global coastal ocean is still lagging behind other topics in oceanography, probably because of the fragmented scientific approach related to the varying coastal specificities. However, Robinson and Brink (2010) attempted to define the concept of the “global coastal ocean”,
highlighting that a common scientific approach to studying the different coastal areas is possible and potentially very important. This is the key idea for this Programme.
In order to achieve the goal of understanding the different but similar “global coastal ocean” areas several scientific questions need to be investigated, including:
- The scientific definition of the “global coastal ocean”, its physical and biochemical role in the large scale ocean circulation and ecosystem dynamics;
- The understanding of the predictability limits of the coupled atmohydro-land-ocean system at the coasts and the development of Limited area Coastal Earth System Modelling;
- The sediment-light-nutrient-physics nexus in the coastal zone, its connection to the nutrient limitation paradigm in the open ocean and its effects on the predictability of coastal marine food webs and coastal carbon cycle;
- The optimal design of a multi-scale multidisciplinary global observing system which considers both the open ocean and the coastal observations;
- The development of a coastal observation data management system to be synchronized with the Ocean Data Information System (ODIS) being developed during the UN Decade;
- The establishment of limited area modelling (nesting, downscaling) for increased process inclusion and resolution at the land-ocean interface and offshore, including probabilistic and ensemble coastal forecasting;
- The optimization of data assimilation methods in the coastal ocean for ocean predictions;
- The investigation and predictions of the salinization of inland coastal waters, both surface and underground;
- The development of coastal urban meteorology and oceanography concepts and tools;
- Sustainable coastal mariculture.
Some of these topics will be matched to specific solutions and services to be developed by Projects within the Programme or will become Projects themselves.