Institute of Coastal Research
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A glider prior to descent. The research ship Ludwig Prandtl in the background. -image: HZG-

Operational Systems and Coastal Ocean Dynamics

The coastal regions were and are globally important areas for the human population. They provide areas for habitation and a broad range of food supply. Shipping trade routes facilitate a rapid exchange of goods. The coastal oceans were and are also utilised for economic purposes, including fishing, oil production and, most recently, for wind parks.

The coastal ocean is also of great interest for science. There are close and dynamic interactions between seawater and the seafloor at shallow depths. The sea’s coastal regions are also an area of exceptional biodiversity. Human influences, such as shipping, fishing or construction at sea, can also be studied closely here.

The division „Operational Systems“ (KO) of the Institute of Coastal Research at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht is dedicated to observing the coastal ocean.
We develope technologies as well as observing strategies and systems for long-term observations of coastal ocean dynamics ranging from physical to biogeochemical processes.

The integrated “Coastal Observing System for Northern and Arctic Seas“ (COSYNA) is operated by HZG together with ten German research institutions and agencies. It provides data, data products, and short-term forecasts for various stakeholder groups.

The new Helmholtz observing infrastructure MOSES (Modular Observation Solutions for Earth Systems) will help to understand the role of severe flood events for the coastal system – as part of an event chain reaching from atmosphere to vegetation and soil to the estuaries.

Of particular interest are also small-scale processes that are still poorly understood, but are of importance for our understanding of ocean dynamics. These are in particular submesoscale dynamics, the role of turbulence for local energy cascades, instabilities and mixing, the impact of windfarms construction, currents and waves, atmospheric and oceanic boundary layer processes. The „Expedition Clockwork Ocean“ was in this respect a milestone for observations of submesoscale processes with unprecedented simultaneous resolution of a few meters and minutes.

The scientific work of KO is closely linked with stakeholder interactions and science communication, such as various products, workshops, apps, a mobile planetarium, the fulldome movie „Clockwork Ocean“, and VR applications.

The division „Operational Systems“ closely collaborates with the other two divisions of the Institute of Coastal Research as well as the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS), and the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) in Topic 2 and Topic 4 of the joint Helmholtz program PACES (Polar Regions and Coasts in a changing Earth System).

Cosyna Image Sea-land A4

Measurements in COSYNA are carried out with the assistance of many different systems, such as gliders, buoys, FerryBoxes, satellites and radars. -image: HZG-

COSYNA (Coastal Observing system for Northern and Arctic Seas) is a broad system, enabling the systematic and continuous observation of the northern and Arctic coastal waters. Computer models, which simulate coastal sea processes, can be examined and improved using the data collected. The objectives are to describe the current environmental condition and to make short-term forecasts.

The processed data can be utilised by government bodies, the commercial sector and by the public to better plan routine tasks. The data can also assist in exceptional situations so that contaminants, oil spills or poisonous algae blooms can be properly handled. An additional area of application lies in long-term estimates and forecasts.

COSYNA also develops and improves scientific products such as North Sea current maps. Furthermore, measurement buoys and other scientific instruments are utilised, developed and optimised.

In cooperation with many partners, COSYNA expands knowledge of the coasts in “our backyard” and globally—as well as on their regional coastal characteristics.

More information on COSYNA homepage.

Eddies and Fronts in Small Regions
Transport Processes in the Open Ocean
Offshore Wind Farms
The Global Coast