The basic concept of a Global Coastal Ocean was defined about a decade ago in five Volumes of The Sea (Vols. 10 to 14, Harvard University Press). The revised definition is:
- the coastal ocean – that area, extending inshore from the estuarine mouths to river catchments affected by saltwaters and offshore from the surf zone to the continental shelf and slope where waters of continental origins meet open ocean currents.
In other words, the coastal ocean is the interface area where land, hydrology, ocean and atmosphere interact in a multiplicity of space and time scales and give rise to the highest ocean productivity and the strongest interaction between fresh waters, including glacier waters, and salt waters.
We now believe that, after thirty years of development in ocean predictions and operational oceanography, we are capable of understanding and predicting this complex zone where most of the human population live and the impacts of climate change will be amplified.
Most sustainable development goals (SDGs) consider the socio-economic and environmental problems connected within this crucial area. All these goals require increased knowledge and advanced predictions of the global coastal ocean in order to provide solutions for the management and sustainable exploitation of the resources. The Programme “Predicting the Global Coastal Ocean”, shortly CoastPredict, has been designed to substantially improve our capacity to address the SDG targets.
CoastPredict contributes to the UN Ocean Decade objective of “A predicted ocean” by improving our understanding of the coastal area processes using a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach and focusing on the many common worldwide features of the coastal ocean that we need to understand for knowledge based and sustainable management. The major science challenge is to advance the understanding of the role played by the coastal ocean in the global ocean dynamics, from short time scale events to climate.
Observing systems and numerical models will be developed to drive a transformative change on how to predict the coastal ocean at global scales, bringing together diverse scientific, technological and socio-economic communities to co-design the system at the global level.
Last but not least, the Oceanobs19 Conference statement (http://www.oceanobs19.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/OO19-Conference-Statement_online.pdf) considered two high priority efforts for the next decade:
- Advance the frontiers of ocean observing capabilities from the coast to the deep ocean, … at the boundaries between … land, … freshwater, and human populated areas;
- Improve the uptake of ocean data in models for understanding and forecasting of the Earth system.
The UN Decade of the Oceans initiative is a unique opportunity to advance the science of the global coastal ocean and the innovative solutions to its challenging problems.