How does the 'ocean machine' work?
Research is at the heart of Mercator. Understanding and explaining the intimate equilibria of the thermohaline environment, its internal dynamics and variability, its interactions with submarine relief and the atmosphere … Understanding and explaining the variations observed or predicted in living species, according to the seasons and the regions … Understanding and explaining the capacity of the ocean to absorb certain chemical species … Mercator was conceived from advances in research, it was nurtured on them and in return it has given us the means to advance our understanding of ocean physics. This is why the Mission Group was set up. The models, as well as the assimilation techniques used by the operational systems, have all come from research laboratories, as will future advances in this area.
For its scientific users, Mercator is an operational ocean observatory: by systematically combining, over several years, all the information yielded from observations (measurements reflecting reality) with that provided by the model (a three-dimensional view and a memory of past states), it can produce a view of the ocean that is continuous in both space and time. This integrated view is extremely valuable, as it exists nowhere else. It provides a reference state which can be examined or enriched … as well as the raw materials to do it.
Mercator is involved in several areas of research:
- Physical oceanography
- Coastal oceanography
- Biogeochemical modelling
- Halieutic research
- Supporting sea campaigns
- Climatology and seasonal weather forecasting
The Mercator Coriolis Mission Group
The Mercator Coriolis Mission Group (GMMC) consists of about one hundred researchers with turnover each year following a scientific announcement of opportunities and call for tender (this has been done jointly with Coriolis since 2002). Its task is to support the Mercator and Coriolis scientific activities and to participate in product validation. This is a rich field of research which feeds directly into Mercator and offers a strong link between operations and research.
The members or PI's (Principal Investigators) of the Mission Group are selected each year after an announcement of opportunities. The research proposals submitted are examined and selected by an independent scientific advisory board and the representatives of the Mercator and Coriolis projects .
There are one GMMC scientific meeting each year. The project developments and the research actions leaded by the PI'S are presented and discussed.
Supporting sea campaigns
The experimental program PIRATA (« Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic » has been implemented in 1997 in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean by France, Brazil and the USA in the Tropical Atlantic Area in order to measure meteorological and oceanographic variables thanks to buoys in the deep ocean. For a few years, the Research measures are regularly dispatched on near real time log.
Earth's rotation and spatial geodesy
The oceans affect the rotation of the solid Earth by exchanging angular momentum with it. A lot of laboratories are using Mercator Ocean products for their studies and researches.
Below, some summaries of these studies: