, Volume 61, Issue 11, pp 1917-1926
Date: 29 Jun 2011

The Liverpool Bay Coastal Observatory

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Abstract

A pilot Coastal Observatory has been established in Liverpool Bay which integrates (near) real-time measurements with coupled models and whose results are displayed on the web. The aim is to understand the functioning of coastal seas, their response to natural forcing and the consequences of human activity. The eastern Irish Sea is an apt test site, since it encompasses a comprehensive range of processes found in tidally dominated coastal seas, including near-shore physical and biogeochemical processes influenced by estuarine inflows, where both vertical and horizontal gradients are important. Applications include hypernutrification, since the region receives significantly elevated levels of nutrient inputs, shoreline management (coastal flooding and beach erosion/accretion), and understanding present conditions to predict the impact of climate change (for instance if the number and severity of storms, or of high or low river flows, change). The integrated measurement suite which started in August 2002 covers a range of space and time scales. It includes in situ time series, four to six weekly regional water column surveys, an instrumented ferry, a shore-based HF radar system measuring surface currents and waves, coastal tide gauges and visible and infra-red satellite data. The time series enable definition of the seasonal cycle, its inter-annual variability and provide a baseline from which the relative importance of events can be quantified. A suite of nested 3D hydrodynamic, wave and ecosystem models is run daily, focusing on the observatory area by covering the ocean/shelf of northwest Europe (at 12-km resolution) and the Irish Sea (at 1.8 km), and Liverpool Bay at the highest resolution of 200 m. The measurements test the models against events as they happen in a truly 3D context. All measurements and model outputs are displayed freely on the Coastal Observatory website (http://​cobs.​pol.​ac.​uk) for an audience of researchers, education, coastal managers and the public.