Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Data Resources in Operational Oceanography

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit builds upon the skills and concepts introduced in SU2, where the basic data handling concepts are introduced, and SU3, where numerical methods and analysis with applications to geophysical fluid dynamics are introduced. It will lead to SU7 which deals with the specialised and dedicated and services using operational oceanographic data streams. This study-unit also serves to prepare students for applying procedures and approach to activities in connection with the field camp in SU5.

The study-unit is divided into 2 main parts. The first part deals with the basics of numerical modelling and forecasting techniques applied to marine domains. It will follow up on the fluid mechanics topics covered in SU3 with further elaboration into the dynamical description and understanding of the oceans including the governing equations, geostrophic balance, the importance of friction and boundary layers, stability and mixing in the oceans. The main emphasis in this part of the study-unit will be on the use of computer based models as a means to interpret, understand and predict the behaviour of the marine environment. Students will be introduced to diagnostics for model skill assessment and validation. Besides dealing with the underlying mathematical modelling aspects and applications in oceanography to understand and interpret basic processes, this study unit will introduce and lead to the more advanced ocean models that will be dealt with in more detail in SU7.

The second part of this study-unit deals with ocean data systems, including:
• Data acquisition systems – transducer and sensor fundamentals; signal processing and telemetry;
• Data transport in oceanography – creating, reading and writing different data files including CSV, NetCDF and Grib;
• Data dissemination systems – the use, set-up and use of different dissemination systems such as FTP, HTTP servers, THREDDS, SOAP, etc;
• Data management systems – focusing especially on meta-data systems and the creation and updating of databases to store meta-data records;
• Quality control systems – error identification methods, error correction, quality flagging and quality flag scales.

Study-unit Aims

This study-unit is intended to give a handle to students on main streams of activity in operational oceanography, namely: (i) data generation, quality control and management, (ii) data communication and dissemination systems, and (iii) numerical modelling of the marine environment. The students will be introduced to standard methods for assessing the quality of real-time and delayed mode oceanographic data, including its quality certification, management, labelling, archival, cataloguing and posting for dissemination through specialised discovery, viewing and downloading services.

The main aspects covered in this study-unit consist of:
i) Key theoretical and practical aspects on numerical modelling and forecasting in oceanography;
ii) basics of data acquisition systems from an engineering perspective, including signal conditioning, conversion and processing; basics of telemetry, wireless sensor networking, and wireline and wireless data transmission;;
iii) data communication systems used to handle data streams in real time in the acquisition phase, and about IT systems for its delivery to users;
iv) using the data files that were introduced to them in SU2; they will learn on data structures, and how to read, create and modify CSV, netcdf and grib files in unattended manners using techniques that can be applied in batch processing;
v) data dissemination systems including both push-based and pull-based systems;
vi) data management principles – why data needs to be catalogued, about different components of the data management process, about meta-data and its role in data discovery; and
vii) aspects of data Quality Control will deal with the identification of data errors, how to correct them where appropriate and possible, and be able to establish quality standards of data set.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Apprehend the concepts of numerical modelling, the underlying principles for model setup and functioning, different kind of models, and their use in operational oceanography;
- Demonstrate and understanding of the difference between forecasts, now-casts, hindcasts and analyses runs;
- Distinguish between the main types of models used in oceanography and determine their applicability to the different cases;
- Realise the benefits and limitations of the use of numerical models including diagnostics to assess their performance;
- Comprehend the workings and limitations of transducers and sensors typically used for oceanographic measurements;
- Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of signal conditioning, conversion and processing;
- Comprehend the fundamentals of telemetry and data transmission;
- Determine the applicability and feasibility of different data formats, and data dissemination systems;
- Comprehend the operation of data management systems;
- Demonstrare an understanding of the theoretical aspects behind the different quality control techniques and their applicability for different cases.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Determine inputs for models and set-up the necessary data pre-process data routines;
- Plan, choose and use basic numerical models as a research tool as well as to address specific problems;
- Perform basic model validation and assess the skill of models;;
- Perform post-processing on model outputs and use them to help answer research questions;
- Determine the best sensors for use in different in-situ measurement set-ups;
- Read, Write and Process different types of data files typically used in oceanography including netcdf, grib and CSV files;
- Use, set-up and manage different data dissemination systems;
- Create and manage meta-data records;
- Create databases to store meta-data records;
- Implement different quality control routines for near real-time systems as well as for delayed mode systems.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

Main Recommended Books:
Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (1994) by Benoit Cushman-Roisin. Prentice-Hall.
Mathematical Models in Coastal Engineering (1988) by Christopher G. Koutitas, Pentech Press,
distributed by Wiley
Mathematical Methods for Oceanographers: An Introduction (1st edition) (1997) by Edward A. Laws. Wiley.
Alan S Morris, 2001. Measurement & Instrumentation Principles, Elsevier.
H. Rosemary Taylor (1997). Data Acquisition for Sensor Systems. Chapman & Hall.Amos Gilat (2008).
MATLAB: An Introduction with Applications. 3Rd edition. Wiley
Luis Torgo (2010). Data Mining with R: Learning with Case Studies. Chapman and Hall.
Richard T. Watson (2005). Data Management: Databases & Organizations. 5Th edition. Wiley.

Additional Reference Books:
James B. Campbell PhD, Randolph H. Wynne (2011). Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5Th edition. Guildford press
Robert Nisbet, John Elder IV, Gary Miner (2009). Handbook of Statistical Analysis and Data Mining

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite qualifications: Preferably a first degree which includes any two in combination of the following subjects: mathematics, physics (including computational physics), IT, and statistics as well as to applicants with an engineering degree. Students with a degree in just one of these subjects, in conjunction with biology, chemistry and geography will also be considered if the maximum course uptake numbers are not reached. Mature students and professionals with experience and already engaged on related jobs will be eligible for admission.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lectures, Practical and Tutorials

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 30%
Examination (3 Hours) SEM2 Yes 70%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.