A commercial vessel crosses the Columbia River bar in rough weather
A commercial vessel crosses the Columbia River bar in rough weather. Bar pilots are using a recently developed research model forecast system for wave conditions on the bar to assist with navigation through the complex, interacting wave and current fields at the river mouth. Credit: Columbia River Bar Pilots

The safety, efficiency, and sustainability of human activities in the coastal zone increasingly depend on forecasts of coastal environmental conditions on a wide range of timescales. To explore this topic, researchers gathered at an inaugural workshop to review recent advances and identify future challenges to understanding and predicting physical oceanographic and meteorological conditions in the coastal zone: from offshore waters into estuaries and rivers to the head of tide. It was held immediately following the 2018 Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference, which provided additional scientific context for the coastal prediction workshop focus.

Workshop participants included 5 invited speakers and 17 participants ranging from senior faculty to graduate students. The presentations and discussion covered many aspects of coastal prediction systems: data assimilation in operational forecast models and for multiscale systems, ocean-wave-atmosphere interactions in coupled models, coupled physical-chemical-biological modeling for forecasting harmful algal blooms, wave forecasting for coastlines and river mouths, optimizing forecasts for fishermen, and the practical elements of developing and maintaining forecast models in an academic setting and of accomplishing their transition to operational status in government agencies.

Workshop attendees identified several specific outcomes and recommendations:

  1. Coastal ocean forecasts should be extended beyond the currently typical 3 days to the approximately 7-day prediction horizon for regional atmospheric forcing.
  2. The likelihood of a successful transition of a forecast system to operational status can be significantly enhanced if the responsible agencies and users are identified and engaged at an early stage, so their specific needs and requirements can guide development and design.
  3. In general, the constituency for a forecast system may not be fully known until the operational system is in place and useful forecasts become available to the broader community, stimulating additional interest and support.
  4. Coincident, global measurements of ocean surface winds and surface currents, such as those that would be obtained by the Ocean Surface Winds and Currents satellite observing system in the to be competed Earth System Explorer group of the 2018 Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space, were identified as having great potential value for coastal ocean forecasting.

This inaugural workshop was convened in honor of Dr. C. N. K. Mooers (Oregon State University Ph.D., 1969) and addressed topics that were of passionate interest to Dr. Mooers throughout his career. A continuing series of future workshops at multiyear intervals is anticipated, with the long-term goal of promoting the basic and applied scientific research required for practical, operational coastal ocean and atmospheric prediction.

The authors thank the Coastal Ocean and Atmosphere Prediction Workshop Endowment to the Oregon State University Foundation for supporting the event and the 2018 Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference leadership for their logistical assistance.

—R. M. Samelson (rsamelson@coas.oregonstate.edu), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis


Samelson, R. M. (2019), Challenges and opportunities in coastal prediction, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO113841. Published on 15 January 2019.

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