What is GOAPP?

The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) funded a new research network on Global Ocean-Atmosphere Prediction and Predictability (GOAPP). CFCAS initially awarded $2.8 million to support research to be carried out over four years starting in October 2006. The network has brought together researchers from across Canada in order to improve forecasts of the ocean and atmosphere with lead times of days to decades and spatial scales of tens to tens of thousands of kilometres. CFCAS subsequently awarded $196K for a two year supplementary project entitled "Transitioning GOAPP Research to Operations: Real-time Data Assimilation and Forecast Systems" that began in September 2008.

The network, headquartered at Dalhousie University, includes 18 co-investigators, 12 research associates and post doctoral fellows, 15 graduate students and 2 undergraduate students from ten universities across Canada. There are also 20 collaborators, a technician, and a network manager. The funding is used primarily for the training of highly qualified personnel. One of the defining characteristics of the network is that it is bringing together groups of researchers that traditionally have worked independently. Oceanographers and atmospheric scientists are joining forces to model the coupled ocean-atmosphere system as a single fluid. The network is also bringing together researchers who have worked relatively independently on short (weather) and long (climate) time scales. One of the major outcomes of the network will be a new generation of multi-skilled and interdisciplinary research scientists who will cross the traditional boundaries defined by time scale (weather and climate) and scientific discipline (Oceanography and Atmospheric Science).

Motivation for Establishing the Network

Canada has a well-established reputation for world-class weather forecasting and climate change prediction. Currently, routine weather and seasonal forecasts are produced using models which do not include sea surface temperature change in an interactive fashion. Century scale climate change predictions, required to meet the needs of policy makers, are produced using a coupled model in which the ocean and atmosphere can interact By allowing the ocean to interact with the atmosphere our network will improve extended range weather forecasts; it will also help fill the gap that presently exists in our ability to forecast changes in the atmosphere on time scales of seasons to decades. In this way, our network will help Canada remain competitive with other countries which have major global prediction centres that are already using coupled atmosphere-ocean data assimilation and prediction systems for this purpose.

The ocean, like the atmosphere, has its own weather and climate variability. It is important that Canada develop the capability to forecast such changes. An ocean forecast system can be used for marine search and rescue, pollution control, safe and effective marine operations, hydrocarbon exploitation and, on the longer time scales, assessing the effect of climate change on marine ecosystems (both in the deep ocean and adjacent continental shelves). GOAPP has undertaken applied research that will improve Canada's capability to make such ocean forecasts.

Why now?

Recent advances in ocean and atmospheric modelling, increased computer power, and the availability of new data sets make this an opportune time for GOAPP. Of particular relevance is the Argo float program, to which Canada is a major contributor. The Argo program has deployed about 3000 floats in the global oceans that drift freely with currents at a depth of about 1 km. The drifters surface every ten days and relay, via satellite, valuable information on the state of the upper kilometre of the ocean. Another data stream that is revolutionizing Oceanography comes from sensors carried by satellites that can measure basic physical variables such as the height of the sea surface, its roughness, temperature and colour. There is a tremendous potential for developing novel ways of combining these new data streams with state-of-the-art ocean and atmospheric models. The resulting advances in the understanding of ocean circulation and dynamics could be revolutionary – comparable to similar advances for the atmosphere resulting from the establishment of the radiosonde network (weather balloons) several decades ago.

International efforts in so-called "seamless prediction" call for the development of physically-based coupled atmosphere-ocean models that may be used to make predictions on timescales ranging from days to centuries. Model-based approaches are already used for climate change simulations in Canada and similar, although more restricted, approaches are the basis for the current operational one-season forecasts produced operationally. The goal is to extend research and operational activities to multi-seasonal and decadal forecasts. Advances in understanding, advances in computer power, advances in international activity and collaboration, together with an increased need for predictive information to decades and beyond, all make the time opportune for the kind of focused research and development that characterizes GOAPP.

From Research to Applications

Our network complements a new operational environmental prediction capability that is being established through a major Canadian government inter-departmental initiative known as the Canadian Operational Network of Coupled Environmental PredicTion Systems (CONCEPTS). CONCEPTS is based on three inter-related tracks. The operational track is being built by importing an ocean forecast system from Mercator-Ocean (France) and coupling it with Environment Canada's state of the art atmospheric forecast model. The research and development track consists of long-term government research and complementary academic research networks, including GOAPP, that will improve the operational system and make it more relevant to Canadian interests. The products track will develop and disseminate products which address the needs of Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of National Defence. By being closely linked with this operational initiative we will ensure that GOAPP research will be used effectively by government agencies for the benefit of all Canadians.

Our network also has strong ties with the forum that controls the operational Canadian seasonal forecast activity. Our goals include the improvement of the seasonal forecasts and their multi-season extension. Furthermore, socio-economic planning needs are additionally calling for multi-year to decadal information which is also an area of research and development in GOAPP.

Innovative Research and Training of Highly Qualified Personnel

The network has undertaken research that will lead to:

All participating institutions and government department partners will benefit from the training of scientists who are needed to build and maintain Canada's capacity to generate coupled forecasts that are tailored to our nation's needs.

Revised August 2009