Postcard from Australia (and Aftermath)
At the end of February I was lucky enough to have my first trip to Australia to attend the GOOS meeting in Sydney (or, in full, the Workshop to Develop an Implementation Action Plan for Global Ocean Observations for GOOS/GCOS based on Existing Bodies and Mechanisms). The general idea is to build GOOS on top of what is already available from programmes like GLOSS, IGOSS, DBCP etc. Presentations were made of many areas of data gathering and I believe all the delegates learned a lot for use in their own fields. A workshop report from the meeting, written by Peter Dexter from the WMO, can be obtained from IOC.
Two topics from the GOOS meeting are especially relevant for GLOSS:
(1) The first is that GOOS places more emphasis on 'real time' and 'operational' aspects than has GLOSS so far. The exact definitions of these terms depends on the application, but the fact remains that many gauges in GLOSS are old and have slow data delivery, although they are probably perfectly good in themselves. Major funds for modernisations will be required in the next 5-10 years to move towards 'real time'.
(2) The second is that, while the Coastal Module is largely undefined at present (the GOOS Coastal Panel met for the first time in March and copies of the GGE-5 report were circulated to it beforehand), it is clear that many more gauges will be implied for the coastal work than are included in the GLOSS Core Network (GCN), GLOSS-ALT etc. In turn, that implies higher levels of activity for sea level recording hardware, training etc. than we have so far grappled with. In retrospect, the GCN may appear a modest network to construct!
On the way back I was able to call in to the National Tidal Facility in Adelaide where Dr.Wolfgang Scherer from NOS/NOAA, who is very well known in the GLOSS community and who recently organised the Honolulu International Sea Level Workshop, had been appointed Director. Belated congratulations to Wolfgang! Unfortunately, he was in the US while I visited, but I was able to chat to old friends, Assistant Director Bill Mitchell and former Director Prof.Geof Lennon (former Director also of Bidston Observatory), both of whom kindly took me around the city and neighbouring countryside to 'get a feel for Australia'.
However, we did have time for some work as well as tourism. For example, I gave a seminar on GLOSS and POL's Southern Ocean work. Also, Alan Suskin showed me what appear to be good new SEAFRAME acoustic gauges costing around A$10K (approximately US$7K) for the basic system (including data loggers somewhat cheaper than those used in earlier SEAFRAMEs). This seems such a bargain that the question arises as to why GLOSS still has as many gaps as it has.
This set me thinking more about the gaps, for example:
- Why do some sea level organisations, fully equipped with PCs and the like, find it so difficult to fund a small number of gauges along a long coastline, when there would be clear national, as well as international, benefit? Is it really a funding problem, if a scientific-quality gauge can indeed be obtained for A$10K ? What are the other inertial factors?
- Why do countries send participants to GLOSS sea level training courses (at a cost to IOC maybe of about US$3K for air ticket and per diems), then thereafter make no effort to establish gauges back home?
- Why might an organisation accept a second hand gauge, at significant cost to IOC for freight, then not install it (as happened recently with a West African country)? The acceptance of a gauge should imply that it will be installed and maintained as far as possible. Otherwise, it could have been sent elsewhere.
In brief, the subject is not only one of funds. GLOSS and GOOS development depends just as much on individuals (especially Directors of Oceanographic Institutes and Hydrographic Offices) having some energy to implement what their delegates to IOC have promised. How do we get through to them to fill the GLOSS gaps?
On return from Australia, the first letter I opened was from a tide gauge authority asking about the possibility of obtaining second hand tide gauges. This is of course an important topic. Even if the cost of new equipment is falling, it would be a shame to reject offers of serviceable second hand gauges for installation elsewhere. In 1997, the International Hydrographic Bureau sent around a letter on behalf of GLOSS asking if authorities had spare gauges for possible use in Madagascar. (In fact, Madagascar had not asked for gauges, this is a very long story!). This circular letter resulted in an offer of four gauges from Singapore which was re-equipping its network, and one gauge each from two other authorities. (We are currently investigating how many gauges Madagascar can take. They may end up with the best network in the Indian Ocean!)
This example makes one wonder how many other authorities may have serviceable spare equipment which they might like to donate to GLOSS. If you have some in your organisation, either please get in touch with us, or, even better, form bi-lateral links with neighbouring countries to form regional programmes.
Another topic discussed during the Australian trip was that of Regional GLOSS Coordinators. You may recall that at the last GLOSS Experts meeting in JPL in March 1997, the topic of the usefulness of Regional Coordinators was discussed. It was felt by some of the Experts that the Coordinators were not doing their job as energetically as they might. As everyone knows, sea level data become much more useful when used in regional networks: data quality improves and one learns more about the spatial scales of ocean processes.
In practice, some regions already have formal 'Regional Coordinators' based on the IOC regional structure (IOCARIBE, IOCEA etc.). Indeed, not all of these colleagues are as active as one would like, although to be fair, as they are not funded in this role it is difficult to be very critical. Nevertheless, they should not take on a role which they can not fill. How often do some of these Coordinators organise regional science meetings, or have regional newsletters or regional email exchanges?
One practical solution is to have real coordination come out of regional science programmes. For example, Shum's proposal for joint work in the South China Sea area and for the Asian Pacific Space Geodynamics Project (see below) has had a lot of effort put into it already. Satish Shetye has been asking advice of regional colleagues on how to further the Indian Ocean CMAS activities; Ragoonaden's suggestion of research in the western Indian Ocean WIOMAP area is one possibility.
The issue of Regional Coordinators is likely to be discussed at length at the next GLOSS Experts meeting. Your views would be very welcome on the people in each region who have the initiative and energy to take GLOSS forwards. Meanwhile, I shall be writing to present Coordinators to ask how they see their role evolving.
Postcard from Taiwan
In July I was lucky enough to build up my Air Miles even more with a trip to Hong Kong, and then to Taiwan where a meeting was held on Sea Level Networks in the West Pacific Region including Development of GLOSS in the Region and on Sea Level for the Asia-Pacific Space Geodynamics Project with C.K.Shum and Baki Iz representing the APSG project.
The meeting was kindly hosted by Prof.Shui-Beih Yu in an excellent lecture theatre at the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica.
The original idea for the meeting was that it could perhaps be the first of what we hope could be a series of regional 'mini-GLOSS meetings' in between the two-yearly GLOSS Experts meetings. While the Group of Experts meets in different countries, so that new expertise is injected into the programme, there tends to be a bias towards US and European locations. Therefore, by taking advantage of large scientific conferences in different parts of the world, the number of scientists exposed to GLOSS developments can be increased.
Consequently, I invited to Taiwan as many GLOSS-related people from countries from the region as I could, although there were major gaps from Philippines, Indonesia etc., with the object of discussing tide gauge installation and maintenance issues, GPS, plans for the future, training needs etc. with 'science' more properly discussed at the Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting which took place during the following 4 days. A few weeks before the event, C.K. Shum proposed that we merge the GLOSS meeting with one of the APSG sea level group, as the aims of both projects are complementary. For preliminary information on the APSG, Either Click here or Click here.
The agenda of the resulting meeting is given below. It can be seen that it was a very wide ranging one and several recommendations were made, including the need for a regional tide gauge/GPS study to be initiated, somewhat mirroring those taking place already in Europe and the US. Peter Morgan offered to take a lead in that role for the APSG.
Introduction and welcome. Prof. Yih-Hsiung Yeh, Director of the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica.
Overall status of the GLOSS programme. P.L.Woodworth, Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level, Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, UK.
Status of the UH network in the region and related activities. B.Kilonsky, University of Hawaii Sea Level Center.
NTF activities on sea level monitoring in the region and ASEAN. W.Mitchell, National Tidal Facility, Australia.
Monitoring GPS at gauges, results of JPL workshop and since. R.Neilan, IGS Central Bureau, JPL.
GPS measurements at Australian tide gauges. P.Morgan, University of Canberra, Australia.
Geodetic and sea level measurements in Malaysia. Samad Haji Abu, Malaysian Survey and Mapping.
The observed tide characteristics around Taiwan. Yueh.-Jiuan. G. Hsu, Deputy Director of Marine Meteorology Center, Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan.
[Also a poster was presented by our host Prof. Shui-Beih Yu, Academia Sinica on Geodetic and sea level measurements in Taiwan.]
Sea surface slope and the Kuroshio volume transport east of Taiwan. Cho-Teng Liu, Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University.
Characterization of sea level rise and land subsidence in East China Sea region combining altimetry, GPS and tide gauges. C.K.Shum, Ohio State University.
GPS and sea level measurements in New Zealand. P.Denys, Otago University, New Zealand.
Viet Nam presentation - Tide measurement status in Vietnam (presented by Woodworth based on a recent Viet Nam delegation to the UK)
Asian-Pacific Space Geodynamics (APSG) Project sea level research. Wolfgang Scherer, NTF Australia, Cheng Huang, Shanghai Observatory, and C.K. Shum, Ohio State University.
Sea level and GPS projects in Hong Kong and East China Sea. H. Baki Iz, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and C.K. Shum, Ohio State University.
A review of ocean tide models in the region. L.Bode, James Cook University, Australia.
Any other national statements of requirements from countries in the region.