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Observing and Understanding the North Sea

Combining measurements and mathematical models enables the coastal observing system COSYNA to obtain a comprehensive picture of the North Sea condition. COSYNA develops methods and systems with which the current state and changes in the North Sea coastal region and the Arctic Seas can be described, analysed and forecast. The measurement and modelling data is immediately made available and visualised after the measurements have been taken or the computer simulations have been carried out (COSYNA data portal).


As part of COSYNA a multitude of physical, chemical and biological quantities are measured using a diverse array of measurement methods from a variety of platforms. These diverse methods allow reacting flexibly to different problem sets ranging from small scales (a few centimetres) to questions pertaining to the entire North Sea and on a variety of temporal scales from seconds to multiple years. In principle, one can distinguish between in situ methods and remote sensing. In situ measurements encompass stationary instruments, ship-based devices, and autonomous crafts. Remote sensing is carried out from satellites or, on shorter distances, for example through radar.


Numerical models are required to estimate ocean state variables at times and locations for which observations are not available. Of particular importance for the COSYNA project is the ability to provide forecasts of different parameters concerning ocean waves, circulation, and suspended matter. The combination of models covering different processes and spatial scales provides a comprehensive picture of the physical and biogeochemical ocean state of the German Bight.

Data Management

COSYNA data management is the link between observations, model results and data retrieval and usage. It organizes the data streams between observational and storage systems at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and partner sites, the data documentation and the user interfaces for data retrieval and presentation. Monitoring the actual status of the systems and subsequent pre-operational state reconstructions and forecasts requires fast transmission, automatic quality checks and data assimilation. The COSYNA data portal facilitates the technical aspects of data handling from the data source to the end-user. COSYNA follows an open data policy for users from the scientific community, coastal managers or interested lay persons.


One of the major COSYNA aims is to bridge the gap between operational oceanography and the users of marine data of the North Sea and Arctic coasts. COSYNA publishes several print products in German and English (available for download) and supports an interactive app that informs about research activities and results. COSYNA is presented at exhibitions and in museums.

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