The committee was asked to advise the GRP on components of a comprehensive “field campaign to improve understanding and forecast skill” for the LCS. The recommendations in Chapter 3 provided detail on observations, scientific analyses, technology, and the data assimilation and numerical modeling components needed to better understand and predict the LC. This chapter presents the committee’s advice on the organization and execution of the campaign components.
In line with the three main physics questions (see Box 2.1) and the three main observational gaps (see Box 3.1), the committee recommends three geographic foci, with each looking at the LCS, or components thereof, in a new way.
- A comprehensive, long-term (decadal), vertically inclusive “campaign” in the main climatological LCS active area (see Figures 3.1a and 3.1b).
- An observational and scientific analysis component focused on the interaction between the LCS and shoaling bathymetry that virtually surrounds the LCS (see Figure 3.1c).
- An observational and scientific analysis component focused on the complex inflow through the Yucatan Channel and outflow through the Florida Straits (see Figure 3.1d).
The recommendations are of two types: near-term (within the next year to 18 months) and those that require more time to solicit, select, and implement (i.e., the “campaign”). The near-term components are expected to greatly benefit and jump-start the larger campaign.
As mentioned in previous chapters, and as dipected in Figure 4.1, the committee sees the recommendations put forth as an integrated whole. It is intended that new observations will feed new analyses, theory, and modeling and that new modeling, theory, and analyses, in addition to new technologies, will inform more targeted observational schemes which then feed back into improved analyses, theory, and modeling. As this loop continues, and with significant collaborative efforts (whether financial or in-kind), predictive skill in forecasting LCS activity will improve.
Recommendations for near-term action are all actions that can be started or accomplished without extensive campaign planning—all activities included will either jump-start the field campaign or inform the design of the campaign. The committee believes that a fast-track funding opportunity that includes the recommendations below will greatly benefit the overall campaign. Details supporting each recommendation can be found in Chapter 3.
- Procure and/or install and operate HF radars on existing Gulf platforms and across the inflow/outflow areas (shown in red in Figure 4.2; see Recommendations 3 and 10)
- Deploy a coherent feature-tracking, bottom-moored array for deep pressure and current observations in the LCS active area (shown as the blue grid in Figure 4.2; see Recommendation 6)
- Support the continued operation of the campaign’s decadal duration of the Yucatan Channel, Florida Straits, and Campeche Banks mooring arrays (shown in teal in Figure 4.2; see Recommendations 9 and 12)
- Deploy a West Florida Shelf real-time “pressure point” mooring (shown as a blue star in Figure 4.2; see Recommendation 15)
- Conduct a data management exercise to compile existing Gulf of Mexico oceanographic data in support of future research efforts and process studies (see Recommendation 27)
- Gain access to and/or analyze Campeche Bank, Florida Straits, and Yucatan Channel archived mooring data (see Recommendations 8 and 12)
- Conduct a feasibility study for a deep acoustic data communication network (see Recommendation 16)
- Conduct a model performance comparison study (see Recommendation 22)
Although scientists have been collecting data in the LCS area for decades, there has been no in situ field study that has been long term in nature. Furthermore, most prior field studies have not comprehensively observed data from the near-surface air–sea interface, surface, upper baroclinic, and lower barotropic areas at the same time. Therefore, this LCS campaign is unique in its temporal (decadal) and spatial (vertical and horizontal) extent. In addition, beyond observations, this campaign includes the scientific analyses of data collected and the assimilation of new data and inclusion of new understanding (physical processes) and numerical techniques into the models. The following sections describe components that should be considered when crafting a funding opportunity.
Measures of Success and Validation
The funding opportunity should clearly articulate goals that will be measured and validated with observations at the campaign’s midpoint and end. The processes that must be better observed, understood, and modeled include the extension of the LC into the Gulf, the separation of an LCE, and the subsequent propagation of the LCE northward and westward across the Gulf. If efforts put forth by this campaign though new observations, technology, analyses, and modeling lead to a better understanding of what controls the penetration of the LC in the Gulf of Mexico, and/or what determines the shedding of an anticyclonic eddy, then the campaign will have succeeded in filling important gaps in the scientific understanding of the LCS.
Skill at forecasting these processes can be appropriately quantified through metrics of velocity (e.g., feature-based tracking and overall velocity distribution statistics), whose measurement will be a focus, and frontal placement. By the close of this project, success should be measured by the ability to predict currents in regions used extensively by society.
The committee recommends these measures:
- Improved predictive skill in forecasting the LC and/or LCE current speed, vertical structure, and duration out to a forecast period of days to 1 week
- Improved predictive skill in forecasting the extension of the LC (location and duration) and LCE propagation out to a forecast period of approximately 1 month
- Improved predictive skill in forecasting an eddy shedding event from an extended LC out to a forecast period of approximately 3 months
The campaign area includes the general LCS active area (see approximate aerial extent in Figure 3.1), from the air–sea interaction surface interface to the bottom, as defined by the 200-meter isobaths on the Campeche Bank, West Florida Shelf, and North Gulf Coast to 91° West Longitude and areas west to the Texas/Mexico coast when an LCE is propagating westward, and ultimately bound by the areas of inflow and outflow. The campaign also includes important target areas on the shoaling shelves and in the inflow/outflow areas.
The campaign is expected to last approximately a decade to ensure that several LCS retraction-extension cycles, seasonal changes, and interannual variations are all observed. The funding opportunity should be solicited for a 5-year period with the opportunity to document progress and propose a 5-year extension after approximately 3.5 years have elapsed.
Key Observation Variables
The funding opportunity should principally specify observing temperature, salinity, current vectors, and pressures from the surface through the entire water column and fundamental near-surface meteorological variables. Over the life of the campaign, there is likely to be emerging interest in other variables. The funding opportunity should be written to encourage and adopt new, useful observation data types. The base observational scheme recommended to capture key variables is shown in Figure 4.3.
The following information should be collected for use in analyses and immediate assimilation into current models:
- Satellite-based SSH, SST, and ocean color at current observational rates (see Recommendation 2).
- Surface current data from newly procured and/or installed and operated HF radars on three oil/gas platforms in the western Gulf, and on land sites covering the inflow/outflow regions (see Recommendations 3, 10, and 11).
- Surface current and ocean surface meteorological data from various currents and more fully instrumented drifters (see Recommendation 1).
- Temperature, salinity, current vectors, and instrument pressure-depth from moorings that have surface communication capability (see Recommendation 7).
- Temperature, salinity, and current observations in the upper 1,000 meters of the LCS from gliders and profiling floats (see Recommendations 4 and 5).
- Observations of near-bottom currents, bottom pressure, integrated water column currents, and temperature from bottom-moored instruments (e.g.,
inverted echo sounder and pressure type devices with current meters) and/or deep profiling instruments. The funding opportunity should encourage near-real-time data retrieval by acoustic communication networks or other methods that may become available within the realm of affordability (see Recommendation 6).
- Temperature, salinity, currents, and instrument pressure-depth from moorings that do not have a surface communication capability (see Recommendations 9, 12, 13, and 14).
- Observations collected from full water column moorings and other bottom moored instruments from past field studies (e.g., the BOEM-supported field studies of 2009–2011 and Mexico’s mooring and drifters programs in the LCS area) (see Recommendation 27).
Understanding and predicting LCS behavior has been an open problem for decades, and despite enjoying some investment in observations, analysis, and theory, many questions regarding the dynamics of the LCS remain. While this campaign is expected to enable new near-real-time observations that should be directed for immediate assimilation into models, some data, especially archived and new data collected throughout the campaign, should be analyzed by scientific team(s) to gain a better understanding of LCS behaviors and processes. It is also time to consider new theories (e.g., in Chapter 2, the committee highlighted a new theory related to bathymetric/topographic influences). The campaign team should assemble a scientific team(s) to analyze archived and new observations and elevate new theories based on those observations, with a goal of recommending new physical expressions and new deep “climatology” for inclusion in numerical models (see Recommendations 8, 12, 22, 24, 27, and 28).
The funding opportunity should strongly encourage and incentivize proposals that commit to the adoption of vehicle, sensor, and data communication technology enhancements. The LCS is an energetic system in that it follows that observational vehicles should have the capability to be as effective as possible when manuevering in such a system. As new theories emerge, there will be inevitable calls for new sensors and more robust sensors and vehicles with the volume and power to carry them. Near-real-time data from the deep LCS layer may prove to be valuable for assimilation into
Data Assimilation and Modeling
The funding opportunity should require that near-real-time observations be prepared for data assimilation. The campaign should include a team of observationalists and numerical modelers to enable the insertion of new modeling and assimilation techniques, new physics, and perhaps new deep “climatology” into models. Assuming that new, near-term data are available (and possibly some new physics), a formal demonstration of real-time, operational data assimilative model forecasting (consisting of both short-term and long-range LCS prediction) should be conducted within approximately 3 years of the campaign’s initiation; this should help to inform any proposal made to extend the campaign. Likewise, a formal demonstration should be required in the 8- to 9-year time frame. Workshops should be convened to discuss the impact of the campaign on model skill and the model forecasts’ feedback on the observational program (see Recommendations 21, 23, 24, 25, and 26).
Encouragement of Cooperation, Collaboration, and Leveraging
While the LCS campaign will be initiated with GRP funding and oversight, the success of the campaign relies heavily on cooperation, collaboration, and leveraging with federal agencies, international agencies, public and private organizations and corporations, and academia. Opportunites for collaboration are highlighted in Box 4.1.
The campaign solicitation should reach out to talented ocean scientists and numerical modelers in
- nonprofit organizations that work in the ocean observing and modeling fields (e.g., Navy University Affiliated Research Centers [UARCs], Federally Funded R&D Centers [FFRDCs], National Science Foundation [NSF] national centers, and NOAA Cooperative Institutes and Regional Associations);
- oil/gas, geophysical observing, scientific, and ocean technology industries;
- international neighbors in the Gulf and its Straits; and
- government agencies, especially those that are invested in ocean or Gulf modeling (e.g., Navy [NRL and NAVOCEANO], NOAA [NCEP and OAR Cooperative Institutes], NSF [NCAR]).
Engaging the best talent is always a goal, but the funding opportunity should encourage collaboration with agencies and organizations that see the benefit of the GRP-funded observational and analyses efforts, and, therefore, realize that there can be benefits to bringing their own funding or in-kind support to the campaign. This is particularly important in partnering with government-operated and -sponsored organizations, especially in leveraging data management systems (e.g., NOAA’s IOOS and NDBC), computational capacity (e.g., NAVOCEANO’s Department of Defense Major Computer Center), and numerical modeling groups (e.g., NRL, NAVOCEANO, NOAA’s GFDL, and NCEP; NSF’s NCAR and other federally supported programs). Furthermore, the oil/gas industry and its supporting ocean-practice contractors, to which the new observations and improved models will be immediately valuable, should be encouraged to join in substantially supporting this fuller Gulf and LCS observing system.
The Gulf is not exclusively under the purview of the United States. We share the Gulf with Mexico and Cuba. We also share the Florida Straits with the Bahamas. While the campaign should encourage—to the point of funding—collaboration with our Gulf neighbors, the GRP should, in the near term, begin discussions about data sharing and the furthering of moorings operations, HF radar installation, and other ocean observing plans. A near-term action for the GRP, and the eventual campaign leader, is to gain permits for ocean research (when a U.S. vehicle/instrument is the best option) in other nations’ EEZs.
Recommendation 30: As the crafting of the funding opportunity matures, the GRP should engage stakeholders, including federally operated and sponsored organizations, Mexican and Cuban agencies, and private institutions and industry, to discuss the campaign goals, explain the opportunities it supports, bring the ocean modeling community into the planning early, and explain the legal restrictions associated with the GRP funds.
Data Management Requirements
The GRP has published a data management policy1 in previous funding opportunities; it should be referenced as a requirement in the solicitation and agreed on by any funding opportunity respondent in any formal proposal. Additionally, any funding opportunity should explicitly require a data manager or data management team to ensure proper capacity for adhering to the data management policy. Regarding systems for data communication, quality control, and archival and access, the funding opportunity should encourage the use of IOOS protocols and other existing, accessible, nationally accepted data management systems (e.g., those used by NDBC). Real-time or near-real-time data collected by this campaign should be made publicly available through recognized, established data sites. Results from GRP-sponsored, LCS campaign-specific scientific analyses should be made available to the data assimilation/modeling community as soon as possible and be published within 1 year of analysis.
Campaign Solicitation Method and Campaign Management
There are several large ocean project management models (e.g., NOAA’s Cooperative Agreements and Cooperative Institutes, Office of Naval Research’s [ONR’s] Defense Research Initiatives, NSF’s recent Ocean Observing Initiative and National Ecological Observatory Network program). Each has a track record. Some models ask that funding opportunity respondents put together teams of performers and leaders. Another model is for the supporting agency to select what it thinks are its best performers and then pick a leader from within the selectees. History shows that some technical respondents are not the best administrators. Other examples show that strong administrators are not necessarily technically skilled enough to manage a science enterprise. Still other examples show that the leadership regime, however chosen, may not have
1 The Gulf Research Program’s Data Management Policy can be found at: http://www.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/gulfsite/documents/webpage/gulf_178879.pdf.
the administrative breadth to cover a complex project’s requirements. Because most models of this scale use public monies, there are strict federal rules and audit requirements that must be followed. Moreover, there are varying degrees of management control over program execution by the government’s program managers. This has led agencies to punctuate the importance of the selection of the nongovernment leader, also known as the principal investigator (PI), and the relationship between the government program manager and the lead PI. The GRP, while free of some specific contracting constraints, must also ensure sound, rigorous business practices and those expectations must be outlined in the funding opportunity. The committee believes that success in any model is dependent on the technical quality of the team selected and especially the quality of overall program leadership. The committee recommends that scientific/technical program principal investigators and science teams be selected based on track record, experience, and collaborative potential by a GRP selection panel. Separately, but at about the same time, the same GRP selection panel should pick a lead program manager and a team of subordinate administrators that he/she proposes. This will likely mean two solicitations, with one chosen for technical work and one for overall administration and management.
A strong leader with a technical reputation and demonstrated managerial excellence is critical. Because the GRP will likely outsource the campaign, the leader will need a management team to deal with subcontracting, procurement, human resources challenges, financial management/accounting/audits, legal matters, communications, reporting, international negotiations, and permitting, to name a few duties. The overall leader does not necessarily have to be a single person; it is, rather, a capability that will be needed to understand the science and broadly address management challenges. A self-assembled group of scientific persons may emerge (e.g., a new consortium of universities), as might an established nonprofit group (e.g., an established consortium of partners like the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, IOOS Regional Association, or a private institute), or a for-profit company with complex management experience. This is a critical decision and will take the best effort of a GRP selection panel.
The committee has recommended that the best scientists (observers, analysts, and numerical modelers) be chosen to execute the LCS campaign. Separately, not from within the science teams, a leader or leadership group should be selected. The “pro” in such a selection scheme is that the best are selected. The “con” is that there is always a chance that the top leadership team, while scientifically competent, will not be practicing scientists, but will have overall management authority. This can lead to interpersonal competition over authority, although this is admittedly personality dependent. Such models are normal in high-tech industries. A check and balance on such a manage-
ment scheme is the appointment of an outside review board composed of experienced people from policy, science, and management backgrounds that can hear regularly from leadership and the science teams and advise the GRP Executive Director.
The GRP Executive Director should review the campaign leadership performance regularly and be empowered to replace the leadership regime if needed. This Executive Director’s authority should be explicitly mentioned in the funding opportunity. Likewise, all funding opportunities should explicitly describe the authorities of the overall leader.
The Statement of Task specifically asks for an estimate of the costs associated with the campaign components. The estimated costs described below do not consider contributions of outside funding or in-kind resources possibly contributed through collaborative leveraging.
The committee estimates, from the variety of its individual experiences, that the full three-geographic-component program can be funded for about $100–$125 million over the course of a decade—an average of $10–$12 million per year, recognizing that some years involving new procurements will be higher and other years lower. The committee stresses that it would be counterproductive to recommend exact cost boundaries as such recommendations would stifle innovative proposals. The estimates below exist merely to give the GRP a rough order of magnitude for planning purposes. The funding opportunity(ies) should not be constrained by the estimates provided in Tables 4.1 and 4.2.
TABLE 4.1 Near-Term (2018) Investments and 2-Year Operations
HF radar procurements and/or installations
|Support the continued operation of Mexico’s mooring arrays (Campeche Bank, Yucatan Channel, and Florida Straits for 2 years)||$3M|
|Deploy a sparse bottom-moored pressure/current array for 2 years||$1.5M|
|Deploy a West Florida Shelf real-time “pressure point” mooring for 2 years||$1.5M|
|Studies and Analyses|
|Conduct scientific analyses of inflow/outflow mooring data and Campeche Bank mooring data||$0.25M|
|Conduct a deep acoustic data communication network feasibility study||$0.25M|
|Conduct model comparisons, including comparison and process analyses during “active years”||$2–$3M|
|Conduct a desktop-style study to compile (and make accessible) physical oceanographic data of the Gulf of Mexico from 2002 to 2017||$0.15M|
TABLE 4.2 Campaign Costs for 10 Years (listed in general order of priority within each section)
|Decadal Observational Components|
|Active LCS Area||Support HF radar operations (three radars in LCS Active Area)||$1M|
|Optional: Procure, install, and operate, initially as a demonstration, an HF radar on a buoy||$1M|
|Procure and operate gliders in the upper layer||$23M|
|Procure and operate surface drifter program||$2.5M|
|Deploy a full bottom-moored pressure/current array (approx. 60-kilometer spacing)||$3M|
|Optional: selective near-real-time data sampling ($0.5 million per year)||$5M|
|Real-time mooring in the central LCS active area||$3M|
|Enhance profiling float operation in upper layer||$2M|
|Inflow and Outflow Processes||Support HF radar at inflow and outflow locations||$1M|
|Support the continued operation of Mexico’s Yucatan Channel array||$5M|
|Support the continued operation of Mexico’s Florida Straits array||$5M|
|Shelf Processes||Support the continued operation of Mexico’s Campeche Bank arrays||$5M|
|Support the continued operation of the pressure point mooring for at least 3 additional years||$1.5M|
|West Florida Shelf array||$6.5M|
|Optional: Cross-shelf mooring west of Florida “Big Bend”||$6.5M|
|Optional: Cross-shelf mooring west of the south Louisiana “Bird’s Foot”||$6.5M|
|Modeling and Analyses|
|Support scientific analysis and numerical modeling team(s)||$20–$30M|
|Estimated Total||Approx. $100–$125M|