ECMWF presents key discussion points from workshop on ocean data assimilation

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The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) has revealed the key discussion points from its joint workshop with OceanPredict on advances in ocean data assimilation.

The virtual workshop, which was held from May 17-20, brought together 170 scientists from around the world to discuss recent progress and the challenges ahead in ocean data assimilation.

Experts addressed the science underpinning climate and environmental monitoring and predictions, the exploitation of novel observations, and interactions in the ocean-atmosphere-sea-ice-biochemistry system at global and regional scales.

According to ECMWF, the workshop provided a unique opportunity to address multi-disciplinary topics by bringing together experts from different domains. It addressed what is common to all applications, such as the treatment of model error, the specification of short-range forecast and observation errors, and the exploitation of machine learning.

It also looked into infrastructure needs to share developments among different domains, and between operations and research.

“One of the best aspects of the workshop was the interaction of data assimilation scientists from diverse application areas,” said Massimo Bonavita, who leads the data assimilation team at ECMWF. “While general methodologies are very similar, the realizations of the different constraints in different Earth system domains provides people with new perspectives and helps generate new ideas.”

In the past few years, operational ocean forecasting activities have consolidated in different centers, and the number of ocean specialists has increased. That means there is now a critical mass to spark good collaborations.

Progress is being made in the new field of coupled data assimilation, where both technological and scientific developments were presented at the workshop.

The working group discussions acknowledged the complex science of coupled data assimilation. They recommended the training of experts in the ocean-atmosphere boundary layer and machine learning, and the use of targeted observations of the interface for process understanding and modeling improvements.

“While many challenges still remain, particularly in relation to coupled data assimilation, it was great to see all of the recent progress that has been made in support of ocean and climate science, and OceanPredict is very excited about the new intersection of data assimilation with machine learning,” added Andy Moore, co-chair of the OceanPredict task team on data assimilation.

Beyond methodology, the workshop also touched on common developments for sharing data assimilation infrastructure, with major initiatives such as JEDI and PDAF being discussed.

Furthermore, a clear and important recommendation from the workshop was the need to strengthen the data assimilation research in non-operational centers, and to prepare the next generation of data assimilation scientists.

For more information, including all posters and recordings of the talks, please visit the workshop page on the ECMWF website.

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