Monday, 23 December 2013

Getting to know Discovery

Moored at Liverpool docks, the brand new RRS Discovery looked impressive - her stunning black and white hull silhouetted against the Mersey skyline. My cruise was a two-night voyage to Southampton. With excitement mounting I waved goodbye to land and climbed up the gangway.
RSS Discovery in the Mersey ©
During my first time at sea I had discovered that the long hours, seasickness and lack of space over long periods add up to one thing — life onboard a research cruise is very hard work. Despite this I jumped at the opportunity to go on Discovery. What could be better than to experience life at sea without being up at 4 am for the morning CTD!
My spacious cabin aboard the new Discovery had a TV and two portholes, all of which made for a luxurious voyage. I watched a fantastic sunrise one morning and one of our group even spotted a dolphin go past! The well equipped gym, movie room and bar will prove essential for scientists and crew needing to wind down at the end of a long shift.
We soon felt the effects of being at sea — the rough weather in the Irish Sea looked ominous from the aft deck as we were battered with wind and rain. This was a different side to life on the oceans from the calm blue tropics that I experienced on my previous cruise. With a 360-degree view and an occasional distant craft sailing by on the horizon you become acutely aware of your dependence on the ship. The experience awakens the spirit of adventure yet also brings a sense of tranquillity when your company is restricted to the birds following behind and the hidden life beneath the sea suface.
As we rounded Lizard Point in Cornwall we spotted the lighthouse blinking in the distance. Suddenly land was in sight, beautiful though poignant as it meant the cruise was nearing its end. The highlight of the trip was the sunrise as the ship passed The Needles off the Isle of Wight. The grey morning looked like an Arctic dawn, as Discovery glided silently past the battered–looking chalk stacks. Curious onlookers gave us a wave and took photographs as we passed through the Solent and Southampton Water. I hope it sparked their interest and led them to find out more about Oceanography (and the data management behind it).
As a data scientist, research cruise experience is invaluable. You meet the scientists that we work with daily to ensure smooth data and metadata collection. This cruise was a fantastic opportunity for two British Oceanographic Data Centre data scientists to explore the ship, meet the crew and collect information on the ship’s sensors, which will prove vital when we need to archive data from future cruises.
Working here at BODC, I feel I help data continue on their journey from the depths of the ocean to the wider public, where they advance understanding.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Storm surge and coastal flooding

The Environment Agency and Met Office are warning that gale-force winds, large waves and a tidal surge caused by low pressure will combine with high tides from today (Thursday) until Saturday morning, bringing a risk of significant coastal flooding.
Near real-time sea level data from the UK Tide Gauge Network is available to download from the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) website.
High waves and flooding forecast ©
The UK Tide Gauge Network is part of the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting (UKCMF) Service. UKCMF is a partnership between public bodies, led by the Environment Agency (EA), providing a comprehensive coastal flood forecasting service for the UK. UKCMF ensures that those at risk of coastal flooding can be warned in good time, with the aim of saving lives and reducing the impact of flooding on homes, businesses, infrastructure and communities.
On 31 January – 01 February 1953, a combination of a high spring tide and a severe storm over the North Sea caused a storm tide; the water level reached over 5.6 metres above mean sea level in some locations. The waves overwhelmed the existing sea defences and caused extensive flooding, killing 326 people in the UK and more in low-lying areas of the Netherlands and Belgium. UKCMF's predecessor, the Storm Tide Warning Service, was set up in the aftermath of these events.
The UKCMF Service Definition states:
“There are over 2.1 million properties at risk from river and coastal flooding across England and Wales (figures from Northern Ireland and Scotland unavailable) with 1.3 million of those located in coastal areas. The frequency of severe and extreme events is predicted to increase in the future due to the onset of global climate change. This will impact in particular those people living and working along the coast. The number of people affected and the value of property often makes coastal flooding more devastating and more costly than other sources of flooding.“
Tide gauge data, managed and distributed by BODC, has been used by government bodies, commercial companies and academics to study various aspects of flooding. Among other applications, the data have been used by contractors working on a Coastal Protection Scheme, in PhDs looking at tidal flooding, as input into hydraulic models for flood studies and to assess potential flood risks.

Monday, 18 November 2013

All the world's a stage...

In the realms of understanding the oceans, William Shakepeare's phrase "All the world's a stage" from As You Like It seems somewhat fitting. To 'break a leg' for the 'oceans' play, the cast must represent the entire globe and the players take the stage to share expertise and dialogue at every opportunity.

William Shakespeare ©

'Oceans': Act IMDIS, Scene MMXIII

The International Marine Data and Information Systems (IMDIS) conference was held in Lucca, Italy from 23 – 25 September 2013.
The conference promoted the meeting of different international communities working in informatics, data management, research and environmental protection. Its focus was online access to data, metadata (information about data) and products and the communication of standards and technology to ensure interoperability.
The four streams of the conference highlighted
  1. Marine information and data management
  2. Marine environmental databases: infrastructures and data access systems
  3. Data services in ocean sciences
  4. Services for users and education
Contributions from British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) delegates provided significant, well-received input across all streams, in both oral and poster sessions, on topics ranging from future technical directions for marine data systems to the creation of educational resources as part of a data rescue project.
Members of BODC staff were also involved in a wide range of side discussions at the meeting, covering topics such as integrating biological data within the European SeaDataNet system and making data citable in the scientific literature and Linked Data for oceanography. It is also very encouraging that BODC systems, particularly the NERC Vocabulary Server, were referenced in many other presentations - indicating true interoperability.

BODC references

Linked Data: An Oceanographic PerspectiveVideo of 'Linked Data: An Oceanographic Perspective'.Adobe PDF version of 'Linked Data: An Oceanographic Perspective'. 
A. Leadbetter, R. Arko, C. Chandler and R. Lowry
MyOcean In-Situ Thematic Center: A service for operational Oceanography Video of 'MyOcean In-Situ Thematic Center: A service for operational Oceanography'.Adobe PDF version of 'MyOcean In-Situ Thematic Center: A service for operational Oceanography'.
S. Pouliquen, T. Carval, D. Guillotin, C. Coatanoan, T. Loubrieu, A. Grouazel, K. Von Schuckmann, H. Wedhe, L. Sjur Ringheim, T. Hammarklint, A. Hartman, K.Soetje, T. Gies, M. De Alfonso, L. Perivoliotis, D. Kassis, A. Chalkiopoulos, V. Marinova, P. Jaccard, A.B. Ledang, K. Sorensen, G. Notarstefano, J. Tintore, Seppo.Kaitala, P. Roiha, L. Rickards and G. Manzella
Semantically-enhanced Aggregation of SeaDataNet Data  Adobe PDF version of 'Semantically-enhanced aggregation of SeaDataNet data'. 
R. Lowry, A. Leadbetter and M. Vinci
FixO3: The next phase of Open Ocean observatory Data Management Harmonisation  Adobe PDF version of 'FixO<sup>3</sup>: The next phase of Open Ocean observatory Data Management Harmonisation'.
M. Pagnani, R. Huber and R. Lampitt
MEDIN - A UK Partnership for Managing Marine Data and Information  Adobe PDF version of 'Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN)'. 
D. Cotton, T. Allen and L. Rickards
Progress in developing the ICSU World Data System 
L. Rickards, J-B. Minster and M. Mokrane
EMODNet Physical Parameters 
A. Novellino, G. Manzella, D. Schaap, P.Gorringe, L. Rickards and S. Pouliquen
IODE Data Quality Flag Scheme  Adobe PDF version of 'IODE Data Quality Flag Scheme'.
C. Chandler, S. Konovalov, H. Garcia, R. Schlitzer, L. Devine, G. Moncoiffé, T. Suzuki, A. Kozyr and G. Reed
Publishing and Citing Ocean Data  Adobe PDF version of 'Publishing and Citing Ocean Data'.
L. Raymond, C. Chandler, A. Leadbetter, E. Urban, P. Pissierssens and L. Pikula
General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) - Global Bathymetric Data Sets  Adobe PDF version of 'General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Global bathymetric data sets and products'. 
P. Weatherall and R. Lowry
The ICES Data Type Guidelines and their place and role in the profusion of guidelines, manuals, standards, cookbooks and best practice Video of 'The ICES Data Type Guidelines and their place and role in the profusion of guidelines, manuals, standards, cookbooks and best practice'.Adobe PDF version of 'The ICES Data Type Guidelines and their place and role in the profusion of guidelines, manuals, standards, cookbooks and best practice'.
L. Rickards, T. De Bruin, N. Holdsworth, H. Parner, S. Ringheim Lid and G. Dawson
Rescue of historical UK sea level charts and ledgers - creation of Open Educational Resources (OERs)   Adobe PDF version of 'Rescue of historical UK sea level charts and ledgers – creation of Open Educational Resources (OERs)'. 
L. Rickards, E. Bradshaw and J. Andrew
All presented at IMDIS 2013 Lucca, Italy

Monday, 11 November 2013

GEBCO Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names

The General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names is now available to view and download via a web map application.

The Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names interface ©
This public interface to the Gazetteer provides the ability to search for, view and download information. The data are available in a number of formats including spreadsheet, shapefile, KML, WMS and ArcGIS layer and can be accessed as a REST-style API. 
It is hosted by the International Hydrographic Organization Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry (IHO DCDB), co-located with the US National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC).
The GEBCO Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) maintains and distributes the Gazetteer, which provides information on over 3,600 seafloor features. Examples include: the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the oceans, located in the Mariana Trench in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
SCUFN was formed to meet the need for a uniform policy for the standardisation of undersea feature names and to facilitate the consistent naming on bathymetric maps and nautical charts. Therefore SCUFN also provides detailed naming guidelines and standard nomenclature used to define undersea features (e.g. canyon, plateau, fracture zone) and considers new undersea feature name proposals at yearly meetings.
Find out more about the work of SCUFN including
  • how to submit a name proposal
  • the defintions of generic terms used to describe undersea features
Other GEBCO products include global gridded bathymetric data sets that are maintained and made available, on behalf of GEBCO, by the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC). These data sets, including grids, bathymetric contour, trackline control and coastline data sets are included as part of the GEBCO Digital Atlas, which is distributed by BODC on DVD.
Find out more about GEBCO work at BODC.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Published Data Library (PDL)

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) launch a Published Data Library that enables specific datasets to be cited in journal papers through the assignment of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) in collaboration with the British Library and the global DataCite initiative. There is a fundamental assumption that the copy of the data set will be exactly the same each time it is referenced.
One of many datasets in our Published Data Library. ©
It should be noted that the assignment of a DOI is not a substitute for long-term data management by the Natural Environment Research Councol (NERC) data centres, which enables users to construct their own data sets from all data holdings.
The PDL is designed for base datasets suitable for future re-use in other applications, rather than data reworked specifically for a single research publication — the latter sometimes termed 'data behind the graph'. It is based on a model in which multiple copies of datasets are stored indefinitely and in full. Data storage, however, is not an infinite resource. Therefore, the system has obvious limits to the size and number of datasets that it can handle. Procedures are in place to decide which datasets should be included.
PDL datasets will be of two types
  1. Data sets that have not yet been ingested into the BODC system, but are destined for future ingestion.
    Candidate datasets will be identified through negotiation between data originators and BODC. The technical quality of these datasets (including metadata) to an acceptable standard is the responsibility of the data originator. BODC will judge the acceptability of candidate datasets in terms of their completeness, but not in terms of their scientific quality or value.
  2. Data sets that have been ingested into the BODC system and subsequently exported.
    Candidate data sets of this type will be identified through discussion between the scientists who supplied the data and BODC. The technical quality of these data sets is BODC's responsibility.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Data management for the OSMOSIS consortium

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) are pleased to announce the launch of a data management area to support the Ocean Surface Mixing, Ocean Sub-mesoscale Interaction Study (OSMOSIS) consortium.
Monitoring the OSBL with a Seaglider. ©
This offers an overview of OSMOSIS and is designed to be a resource for consortium participants and the wider community alike. Users are able to browse inventories of the data being generated through OSMOSIS research and find out how to acquire data. There are also guidelines for consortium members regarding the submission of data to BODC.
OSMOSIS combines traditional research cruise measurements with the autonomous sampling capabilities of ocean gliders. It was funded to deliver the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC) Ocean Surface Boundary Layer (OSBL) programme, which aims to shed light on the complex physical processes that influence the OSBL.
The OSBL is a shallow layer of the water column that plays a fundamental role in nutrient and greenhouse gas exchange between the atmosphere and ocean. OSMOSIS observations will feed into and help improve computer models predicting future environmental scenarios.
BODC's role involves the quality control, dissemination and long-term stewardship of OSMOSIS data, as well as facilitation of data exchange within the OSMOSIS community.

Friday, 21 June 2013

RRS James Cook JC086 cruise - a postcard home

British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) Data Scientist, Abby Bull, participated on the recent RRS James Cook Extended Ellett Line (JC086) cruise. The Extended Ellett Line, a transect running from the Scottish Continental Shelf to Iceland, is sampled regularly, generating a time series of physical data essential in understanding the oceanic climate variability in this region.

A pod of Pilot Whales ©
Eager to accept a challenge, Abby (and her large suitcase packed full of seagoing items — the inevitable oversized waterproofs and luminous yellow hard hat) embarked on her first scientific research cruise. Having worked at BODC for just eight months, Abby had limited knowledge of what to expect. She tells her story below.

The postcard home

Priority one — don my sea legs and prepare to deal with the inevitable sea sickness. Luckily there was no need to worry, I gained sea legs like a natural and the contents of my stomach stayed put! The weather on the steam up to Iceland went from one extreme to another — calm at first before heading into the danger zone. However, I welcomed some swell as it added to the excitement!
To avoid the worst of the weather we deviated from our planned route and sailed further north towards Iceland for cover. Here I witnessed the midnight sun and made friends with a pod of Pilot Whales. Eventually, it was plain sailing and the scientific work resumed.
Initially, I was involved in deploying a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) sensor package, which samples a variety of parameters. Later I got my hands dirty with mud samples from depths of around 2000m. A quick test on my face: is this a potential beauty product? No, back to the task in hand! I extracted the mud from a sled and sieved it to separate the different sized particles. This was back-breaking work so I was relieved to return to CTD sampling for the remainder of the cruise.
My experience of seagoing has given me insight into the practical element behind oceanographic data collection. I had an opportunity to build relationships with researchers and technicians and to ensure that an appropriate level of attention was devoted to compiling metadata — information about the data.
The end result: accessible marine data resources to be distributed by BODC for reuse by the scientific community and the public.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

14th Argo Data Management Team Meeting

We are pleased to announce that the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) will host the 14th International Argo Data Management Team Meeting (ADMT14). The meeting will be held in Liverpool's Foresight Centre on 14th - 18th October 2013.

ADMT14 logo ©
The 14th and 15th October are reserved for a delayed-mode quality control workshop, and the plenary data management meeting will be held on 16 – 18 October.
The meeting will offer a chance for Argo data managers to discuss the community's progress in developing and enhancing the continually evolving global project. This will include a review of action items agreed at ADMT13 in November 2012 and the development of an updated action list. A detailed agenda will be released nearer the time of the meeting.
Meeting attendance is free. For more information and to confirm your attendance please use the register link below (password required). A dynamic map showing local tourist information, some suggested hotels in the city and transport information is available.
If you have any queries please contact the local organisers Justin Buck and Clare Davis.
Eventbrite - ADMT14: 14th International Argo Data Management Meeting

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Glider community visits Liverpool

On 18 April 2013, the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) welcomed the ocean glider community to Liverpool for a workshop to showcase UK glider activities and developments. We would like to thank all participants for making this such a rewarding event.
The UK glider community visits Liverpool ©
The UK operates one of the largest glider fleets in Europe. This gathering of UK researchers and technology specialists was the largest for over two years. It was endorsed by the UK Integrated Marine Observing Network (UK-IMON) initiative.
BODC hosted the event to encourage greater collaboration within the UK. It was attended by more than 40 delegates, attracting participants from academic institutes and instrument manufacturers. The latter presented the very latest glider platform technologies available to the community.
BODC took the opportunity to convey recent developments in glider data management protocols. These are being formalised through BODC's collaboration with the international glider community. The work, coordinated by the European Gliders for Research Ocean Observation and Management (GROOM) project, aims to facilitate dissemination of glider data on a global scale.
BODC is committed to ensuring that UK glider data are managed in an effective manner to ensure long-term worldwide availability.
A complete list of the workshop presentations are available.

Monday, 18 March 2013

UK ocean glider workshop

The British Oceanographic Data Center (BODC) are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a UK ocean glider workshop on Thursday 18 April 2013, in Liverpool.
A deployment of Seaglider 'Talisker' ©

The aim is to bring together UK researchers and technicians to share expertise and experiences acquired through specific involvement with gliders and glider data.
The workshop, endorsed by the UK Integrated Marine Observing Network (UK-IMON) initiative, will
  • showcase scientific achievements and technical advancements within the growing community
  • disseminate recent developments regarding the long-term stewardship of UK glider data
If you are interested in attending the workshop, please email either Justin Buck or Mark Hebden.
The workshop will be preceded by a meal on the evening of 17 April 2013 and all workshop participants are welcome to attend this event.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

IODE Achievement Award

We are proud to announce that Dr Roy Lowry, Technical Director of the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC), has received a prestigious Achievement Award from the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE), part of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
Sissy Iona, Co-Chair of IODE, presents Roy Lowry with his award. ©
Established in 1961, the IODE programme has grown through the hard work of hundreds of experts from around the world to become an active global network of data centres and information centres. Since 2009, IODE has bestowed Achievement Awards in order to express special appreciation of those experts who have contributed time and effort to the programme.
Roy has made major contributions over the past three decades. For example
  • In the 1980s the General Format 3 (GF3) was developed. This provided a generalised formatting system for exchange and archival of data within the international oceanographic community. The software package, GF3-Proc, written by Roy to accompany this first attempt at interoperability, was a major undertaking.
  • Later, Roy's efforts were spent on compiling integrated data sets from major multidisciplinary oceanographic field programmes for UK, European and international projects. This included leading the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) Data Management Task Team and involved substantial work on developing controlled vocabularies.
  • Controlled vocabularies went on to become one of Roy's main areas of interest and impact. In particular, over the last 10 years or so, he has focused on the development of semantic infrastructure in terms of both technical and content governance. He was part of the joint IODE and International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Study Group on MarineXML, he instigated and led the IODE Steering Group on MarineXML and set up the SeaVoX email discussion forum for vocabulary content governance.
  • Under Roy's tutelage in the semantic arena, a lot of progress has been made. Roy is responsible for the semantic framework that underpins the EU SeaDataNet project (which includes IODE) and has led the ontologies work package for the EU Open Service Network for Marine Environmental Data (NETMAR) programme.
  • Finally, we must mention Roy's influence on the emerging subject of data publication and citation. He has played a leading role in workshops and case studies concerning the joint project established between the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the Marine Biology Laboratory / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (MBLWHOI) and IODE to investigate this topic.
Fittingly, Roy was presented with his award at the first Ocean Data Interoperability Platform (ODIP) Workshop, hosted by the IODE Office in Oostende in February 2013.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Near real-time sharing of ocean glider data

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) are pleased to announce the delivery of near real-time oceanographic measurements from ocean gliders to the climate modelling community.
Surface salinity from the Forecasting Ocean Assimilation Model (FOAM) ©

Ocean gliders are autonomous platforms that travel through the water column by altering their buoyancy and making subtle changes to their internal weight distribution, collecting oceanographic measurements as they go. They are becoming a popular tool for scientists to monitor our oceans.
They can operate for months at a time following commands sent via satellite from a glider pilot. Each time a glider surfaces, the oceanographic data collected from its sensors during the previous subsurface journey are transmitted back to the glider pilot. These data are highly sought after by climate specialists, particularly for assimilation into forecast models.
BODC are currently developing streamlined protocols for managing data collected by gliders. Integral to this is the dissemination of near real-time data to the modellers via the Global Telecommunication System (GTS).
BODC are responsible for the downloading, encoding and daily delivery of glider data to the GTS for various communities, including NERC’s Ocean Surface Mixing, Ocean Sub-mesoscale Interaction Study (OSMOSIS) and Fluxes Across Sloping Topography of the North East Atlantic (FASTNEt) consortia and through our laboratory liaison partnerships.
Gliders are a welcome addition to BODC's growing portfolio of near real-time data streams. Our glider GTS feed compliments those from other platforms, including the Argo floats and seal-tag instrumentation.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Data management for the FASTNEt consortium

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) announces the launch, on its web site, of the data management area for the Fluxes Across Sloping Topography of the North East Atlantic (FASTNEt) consortium.
UK Shelf as shown by GEBCO (the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) ©

The pages provide background information about FASTNEt, as well as inventories of the research cruises and associated datasets. These are designed to encourage data sharing and collaboration between consortium participants and the wider scientific community.
FASTNEt is a four-year study that started in 2011. It will combine traditional research cruise measurements with autonomous sampling strategies, such as ocean glider deployments. It was funded to deliver NERC’s Ocean Shelf-Edge Exchange programme, which aims to develop an improved understanding of physical and biogeochemical exchange at shelf edge environments.
These regions of the world’s oceans are thought to play a role in the cycling of nutrients and carbon between shallow coastal seas and the deeper ocean, with potential implications for regional resources and global climate. The FASTNEt observations will feed into and help improve computer models predicting future environmental scenarios.
BODC's role involves the quality control, dissemination and stewardship of FASTNEt data, as well as facilitating data exchange within the FASTNEt community. We are also providing onboard data management support for the two main research cruises funded as part of the project.