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Data from air-ocean interface advances climate predictions

Data from satellites are a valuable and useful resource for wave prediction and developing models of climate change, according to a report recently published by the European Commission, Directorate General XII. Entitled "Investigations of the coupling fluxes at the air-ocean i...
Data from satellites are a valuable and useful resource for wave prediction and developing models of climate change, according to a report recently published by the European Commission, Directorate General XII. Entitled "Investigations of the coupling fluxes at the air-ocean interface: Research results", the publication is the final report of a collaboration between eight research teams from different European institutions. Their aim was to tackle the complex issue of chemical exchanges between the atmosphere and ocean to formulate a better model for climate chain.

Understanding exchanges between the air-ocean interface is important for predicting climate change, because delays associated with the ocean's heat capacity mean that increasing levels of greenhouse gases may not be detected until long after major changes have occurred. This has important ramifications for whether we take a "business as usual" approach, or impose Draconian measures to minimise greenhouse gas emissions. Better knowledge of couplings, exchanges between atmosphere and ocean, could be crucial for determining future policy.

According to the report, the results from this study can be used to develop a module for coupling fluxes at the air-sea interface. It suggests that future work could use this module to investigate the effects of wave-related processes on climate change and also incorporate the module into a coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean model, which has been developed by a parallel project funded by the EC. It also suggests that the wind-wave coupling model, based on the rapid distortion theory, should be extended to include the effects of the three-dimensionality of waves.

The researchers envisage the most problematic area for future research in the field of parameterization schemes relative to coupling fluxes, in the case of wave breaking.

The report outlines the conclusions drawn from the project in the following areas:

- Wave-climate models;
- Wave forecasting;
- Wind wave momentum coupling;
- Heat and mass exchange;
- Exchange processes due to marine spray.
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