National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2011

Synthesis and assimilation systems—Essential adjuncts to the Global Ocean Observing System

Rienecker, M.M., T. Awaji, M. Balmaseda, B. Barnier, D. Behringer, M. Bell, M. Bourassa, P. Brasseur, J. Carton, J. Cummings, L.-A. Breivik, E. Dombrowsky, C. Fairall, N. Ferry, G. Forget, H. Freeland, S.M. Griffies, K. Haines, D.E. Harrison, P. Heimbach, M. Kamachi, E. Kent, T. Lee, P.-Y. Le Traon, M. McPhaden, M.J. Martin, P. Oke, M.D. Palmer, E. Remy, T. Rosati, A. Schiller, D.M. Smith, D. Snowden, D. Stammer, K.E. Trenberth, and Y. Xue

doi: 10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.31, In Proceedings of the "OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society" Conference (Vol. 1), Venice, Italy, 21–25 September 2009, Hall, J., D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306 (2010)

Ocean assimilation systems synthesize diverse in situ and satellite data streams into four-dimensional state estimates by combining the various observations with the model. Assimilation is particularly important for the ocean where subsurface observations, even today, are sparse and intermittent compared with the scales needed to represent ocean variability and where satellites only sense the surface.

Developments in assimilation and in the observing system have advanced our understanding and prediction of ocean variations at mesoscale and climate scales. Use of these systems for assessing the observing system helps identify the strengths of each observation type. Results indicate that the ocean remains under-sampled and that further improvements in the observing system are needed.

Prospects for future advances lie in improved models and better estimates of error statistics for both models and observations. Future developments will be increasingly towards consistent analyses across components of the Earth system. However, even today ocean synthesis and assimilation systems are providing products that are useful for many applications and should be considered an integral part of the global ocean observing and information system.

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