Research in Action

Coastal & Environmental Research

Testbed Enhances Operational Coastal Ocean Modeling and Forecasting Skill

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Since its initiation in June, 2010, the Coastal and Ocean Modeling Testbed (COMT) has developed a flexible and extensible community research framework (including a supporting “cyber-infrastructure” as well as an interdisciplinary network of scientists and stakeholders) to advance the testing and evaluation of predictive models of key coastal ocean environmental issues.

This framework supports integration, comparison, scientific analyses and archiving of data and model output. The cyber-infrastructure that has been developed includes a repository of data assembled from numerous observations and models as well as tools for comparing and assessing the models and data.

The first year and a half has addressed three research challenges of high socioeconomic relevance: estuarine hypoxia, shelf hypoxia, and coastal inundation. The Testbed has yielded new insights for obtaining more accurate model predictions that will help to protect life and property and facilitate economic resiliency. Examples include:

  • A multi-model ensemble was found to yield more accurate predictions of the “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay than any one of the models evaluated in this component of the testbed. The use of ensemble modeling has been recommended to the Chesapeake Bay Program for forecasting future water quality conditions in the Bay.
  • A simple dissolved oxygen formulation for forecasting the location and timing of seasonal hypoxia was transitioned to NOAA/CSDL’s research version of the Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System (CBOFS) for evaluation.
  • The evaluation of three unstructured grid, coupled wave and surge models demonstrated the efficacy of these models for high-resolution predictions of storm surge coastal flooding by nor’easters in the Gulf of Maine. This work demonstrated the efficiency of nesting local area models within a coarse, regional model in areas of relatively steep coastal topography and the importance of wave effects on coastal flooding.