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Mercator Ocean forecasting products: fitting into the users needs

Sophie Baudel(1) and Vincent Toumazou(2)

(1) CLS, 8-10 rue Hermes, 31520 Ramonville Saint-Agne, France
(2) Mercator Ocean, 8-10 rue Hermes, 31520 , Ramonville Saint-Agne, France


Mercator Ocean is a French public initiative aimed to develop ocean forecast operational systems based on ocean physical models assimilating routinely remote sensing (altimetry from Envisat, Jason-1, GFO and Topex/Poseidon), sea surface temperature, and in the years to come SMOS sea surface salinities) and in situ data. The other essential and subsequent mission is to allow operational oceanography downstream applications. For that purpose, Mercator Ocean makes its products available through two different ways:

1. Images on the web targeting the general public Every week, more than 2000 maps are updated describing 3D modelled ocean: nowcast, forecast for up to 14 days and hindcast, temperature, salinity, surface current and other ocean parameters, 5 depths from surface to bottom. These images are freely available on the web, except the zonal maps younger than 30 days. For these, the user is expected to fill an on-line form, asking his/her motivations and the use he/she intends to do with these maps. This controlled access allows us to draw the profile of this audience: on an amount of 180 users (end of September 2005), about 30% are researchers, 23% are sailors, using the surface current maps to optimize or better know their oceanic environment, 20% are ordinary on-lookers and interested people. Other uses come from the world of education (14%) -students, teachers-, 8% are public institutions in charge of State missions such as oil drift prevention, environment monitoring. The last 8% are professionals coming from maritime fret, offshore industry, recreative/professional fishing. The analysis by country shows a great audience in France (76%) but a breakthrough into Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy), Canada and USA.

2. Numerical files targeting professional uses The use of numerical files containing the Mercator outputs 3D fields is the most important criteria to evaluate the impact of the usefulness of our products. Mercator has created ‘showcase products’, summarizing Mercator outputs on regular grids and in NetCDF format. We offer several ways to access these products : a server from which the user can make requests and get the products file by file, an Opendap server allowing him/her to extract area, ocean parameters, and enabling continuous time aggregations outputs in one file, and a service à la carte where he/she can make request to a dedicated Mercator team what exactly he/she wants when showcase products are not fitting his needs. The number of our numerical products users reaches about 60 teams, divided into 2 groups. The first half concerns the members of the Mercator Ocean Public Interest Group (CNES, CNRS, IRD, Ifremer, SHOM, Météo-France). Most of them are for research interest. Three applications are for operational issues : the French Navy for operational knowledge of the oceanic environment, and the French Meteorological Office for both seasonal forecasting and pollutant drift modeling. Among the second half of our numerical products users, 21 projects deal with research, not only physical oceanography, but also biology and biogeochemistry. Only two projects are involved in a commercial activity in the field of information service for fishing industry and offshore industry.


Full paper


                 Last modified: 07.10.03