The automated observing and modelling network COSYNA has been established in order to better understand the complex interdisciplinary processes of Northern Seas and the Arctic coast, to assess the impact of anthropogenic changes, and to provide a scientific infrastructure. Data and infrastructure are available to all COSYNA partner institutions. The principal objective of observations and instrument development is to improve our understanding of the interdisciplinary interactions between physics, biogeochemistry and ecology of coastal seas, to investigate how they can be best described at present, and how they will evolve in the future.

The natural processes of the North Sea are in numerous ways connected to the well-being of human societies. Recurrent issues are safety of transportation (e.g., extreme waves, or hazardous spills), coastal defense against storm surges and a slowly rising sea level, or morphology changes due to sediment transport. In COSYNA, data and knowledge tools are developed and provided to be of use for multiple interest groups in industry, agencies, politics, environmental protection or the public. These data and products can support national monitoring authorities to comply with the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The coastal observatory involves national and international contributions to international programmes, such as COASTAL GOOS, GEOSS, GEOHAB and GMES.

The observational data is used for improved model descriptions and hourly updated forecasts of the environmental status of the North Sea. All data are publically available for free in near-real time at the COSYNA data portal.

Since COSYNA is one of the densest observing systems located in one of the most heavily used coastal areas in the world, it may serve as a role model for other parts of the “Global Coast“. Many global problems such as climate change, sea level rise, or ocean acidification influence in particular the ecosystems and communities along the coasts. The impact of these problems as well as the choice of the tools for their management, however, varies strongly with region.

General Objectives

COSYNA aims to significantly advance the scientific understanding of hydrodynamic processes, improve operational models, provide products for various interest groups, and support technological development, e.g. for automated, quality controlled routine measurements or for error and data analysis. A major challenge is a system-wide integration to build a coherent platform for sharing or retrieving data, products, and infrastructure.

COSYNA addresses the following fundamental research questions of coastal and operational oceanography:

Questions of Operational Oceanography

  • What are the key regions that have the largest influence on coastal seas and what is the ideal instrumentation and observing strategy?
  • How can an observing system be optimized to provide relevant and high quality information in a cost effective way?
  • How can the large range of relevant spatial and temporal scales from minutes to decades and meters to hundreds of kilometers be captured simultaneously?
  • How are observational gaps filled and model uncertainties reduced by new methods of merging observational data with dynamic models and statistical methods (data assimilation)?
  • How can the data be made publically available in an easily accessible and comprehensive way?
  • How can different algal groups be observed with satellite and in situ observations?

Scientific Research Questions

  • What are the relevant short-term physical processes of the North Sea and Wadden Sea and how do they influence their biogeochemical and biological dynamics?
  • How important are extreme events (e.g. storms, extreme winters) for the hydro-physical environment in comparison to regular tidal dynamics or general trends?
  • What impact have long-term anthropogenic changes on natural processes, such as currents, waves, temperature, salinity, turbidity, ocean acidification, biological productivity or sediment transport?
  • How large is the exchange of heat, fresh water, suspended matter, nutrients, and organic matter between the Wadden Sea and North Sea?
  • What are the driving factors for algal blooms?
  • What are the effects of offshore wind farms on the physical dynamics, mixing, sediment transport, or biogeochemical processes of the North Sea?