Oceanography group

Background

The Azores area is largely dominated by the Azores Front/Current (AFC) system which comprehends all the oceanic area south of the Azores islands (Klein and Siedler 1989). Local dynamics (influenced by islands and sea mountains), either induced by the AFC or by other local forcing mechanisms, is also important. North of the Azores Archipelago the North Atlantic Front/Current (NAFC) system dominates the circulation (Klein and Siedler 1989). Both the FCA and the NAFC are branches of the Gulf Stream.

Img: 33KbThe team group has been involved mainly on mesoscale process characterization of the AFC, submarine bank dynamics and Gulf Stream ocean color and dynamics. Cruise prospection and numerical modelling have been extensively used on AFC (Alves 1996) and submarine banks, while CZCS satellite images were used in Gulf Stream studies (Martins et al., 1995a,b; Martins et al., 1996; Pelegri et al., 1996).
There is a strong evidence that the AFC is well correlated with the local and regional (islands and seabank) marine ecosystems but how this relation takes place it is still poorly understood.

Multidisciplinary strategies are then required to understand the AFC mesoscale dynamics and its relation with underlying species behaviour and distribution.

The oceanography group team, is composed by 7 people. These have been involved in a number of R&D projects, through which some member theses were completed. The team has already produced some joint publications. The oceanography group is recent and some of its members were abroad for a few years for their graduate studies. Therefore, we expect to start strong publication involvement between team members very soon and efforts are already being made on that sense.

Main goals

Img: 29KbA major goal of the oceanography group is to establish a Permanent Monitoring Facility of the North Atlantic interior, the Permanent Oceanic Station at the Azores Region - POSAR, for mesoscale forecasting, climate variability assessment and ecosystem management. To achieve this, data will be collected through various ways (regular cruises, moored equipment, remote sensing, drifting devices) and then incorporated, through assimilation, into realistic numerical models, which are already performing well, in order to reproduce expected system dynamics. Model results will be further used for ecosystem impact studies and prediction. This is an ambitious goal, but the urgent need to develop such capacities for ocean conservation and management, together with the important geographical location of the Azores islands, certainly constitute a strong encouragement. No doubt, POSAR can become a crucial EuroGOOS (European contribution for the Global Ocean Observing System) puzzle piece for the link between the European continental shelf and slope with the North Atlantic interior. Such a strategy will enable us to obtain regularly, three-dimensional distribution of measured and derived fields (which are presently non-existent). This is crucial for any serious attempt to characterize climate variability and global change assessment of the Atlantic system. Regional and local ecosystem dynamics will be then, easily forced through an adequate link between living resources and ocean dynamics.

The Azores and the North Atlantic Current System play a major role inside the POSAR area. Until present, we conducted several process oriented studies associated with the Azores Current system, the Azores islands and banks and the Gulf Stream. Acquired expertise by the group members covers the fields of ocean in situ observation, numerical modelling, remote sensing and oceanographic instrumentation maintenance. All research projects, past and present, constitute further steps towards our main goal and we feel we are in the right way to achieve it.


Other general goals are

  • To contribute usefully for the regular data base build up as part of the global EuroGOOS database
  • To perform regional and local environmental impact studies (dispersion/aggregation)
  • To contribute for ecosystem assessment and prediction through a joint program of monitoring and forecast modelling
  • To improve process oriented studies through the results obtained from POSAR
  • To perform regular climate monitoring
  • To promote academic formation (through the orientation/completion of theses and by giving undergraduate and Master level courses)
  • To incentive other research team interests and experiments for the POSAR area
  • To conduct instrumentation development whenever needed
  • To quantify phytoplanckton biomass in the Azores region and to infer its role for the global carbon cycle
  • To optimize scientific outputs in order to provide better support for marine management, in particular for any activities related with fisheries.

    Other important objectives of the Oceanography group are those described in detail on each ongoing project. They fit inside a strategy of intensive process study cases for applications, which includes ecosystem observation and modelling in correlation with ocean physics, chemistry, ecology and dynamics.


    Supporting facilities to be implemented are

  • Satellite receiving station (HRPT) for SeaWiFS and AVHRR imagery
  • Upgrade instrumentation and calibration laboratory for oceanographic equipment
  • Moored equipment
  • Marine multidisciplinary numerical forecast laboratory.

    Finally, any regular outputs obtained from the actions described above can become important means to help policy decisions over the Portuguese EEZ.

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