Mercator Ocean International (MOi) has been at the forefront of developing digital models over the last two decades for the global ocean and regional seas. MOi has pushed the field of operational oceanography through the development of numerical mathematical ocean models governed by equations from fluid dynamics, known as “primitive equations”, and their integration into operational frameworks for real-time operations. These numerical equations are resolved by millions of calculations on super-computers. Observation data are then assimilated in the model, i.e. the results of the mathematical model are combined with observation data (e.g. from satellites or in-situ buoys) in order to generate the most realistic possible final representation of the ocean state. This also makes it possible to provide 10-day forecasts of the ocean state. A numerical model therefore enables forecasters to provide a four-dimensional representation, current, past or future, of the ocean’s physical and biogeochemical state. With the EU Copernicus Programme, MOi engaged with a large community of European expert centres to turn this digital oceanography into an operational service for monitoring and forecasting the ocean, and to provide the public with free and open access to this 4D navigation of the digital ocean.
The next innovation is to develop a full-fledged Digital Twin of the Ocean by integrating a wide range of existing and new data sources, developing interactivity and innovating the knowledge-sharing paradigm. It is designed to provide every citizen of our blue planet effective means and agency to better understand the ocean. As the name suggests, we have the technology to create a digital copy of the ocean, on which we can test, for instance, the effects of climate and disaster scenarios on the ocean climate system as well the efficacy of mitigation and adaptation plans.
The European Commission proposed the Green Deal as the new growth strategy for Europe, to position itself as global leader. ESA’s Digital Twin Earth activity, brings together different expertise and emerging capabilities to establish a solid scientific and technical basis to realize the Destination Earth vision and make a firm first step towards Digital Twin Earth.
With this expertise, MOi is participating in the ESA Digital Twin Earth (DTE) Challenge. This on-going project seeks to stimulate applications which combine Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data from Copernicus Sentinels and other Earth observation (EO) data. The goal is to provide advanced forecasting capabilities on the impact of climate change and to facilitate responses to societal challenges.
MOi has led a community initiative to design a pan-European ambition for a Digital Twin Ocean (DTO), a European node of an international network. This has been together with major leaders of EU structuring initiatives for ocean monitoring (Copernicus, EMODnet, Marine Research Infrastructures, AtlantOS, H2020 projects like BlueCloud, Immerse and others), by engaging with experts on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and also through citizen engagement. Today this initiative takes the form of the Ocean2.eu Horizon 2020 proposal, that responds to the European Commission (EC) Green Call LC-GD-9-3-2020: Transparent & Accessible Seas and Oceans: Towards a Digital Twin of the Ocean. This is currently under evaluation by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD).
The Ocean2.eu approach would capitalise on ESA Digital Twin Earth (DTE) Challenge experience, the wealth of stakeholder inputs, investments made to secure buy-in, and broad support of the clear strategic plan. This would provide continuity of the ensuing legacy and the continued implementation of the Digital Twin of the Ocean. The Ocean2.eu initiative aims to deliver a holistic and cost-effective prototype solution for the integration of all European assets related to seas and oceans with state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence and HPC resources into a digital, consistent, high-resolution, multi-dimensional and near real-time representation of the ocean. The knowledge generated by this DTO will empower scientists, citizens, governments and industries to collectively share the responsibility to monitor, preserve, and enhance marine and coastal habitats. This is done while fostering the assimilation of sustainable measures, ideals and actions by the blue economy (tourism, fishing, aquaculture, transport, renewable energy, etc.), contributing to a healthy and productive ocean.