Monitoring the Norwegian Coastal Zone Environment (MONCOZE)
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Introduction: The Norwegian marine coastal environment is characterized by the interaction of complex and coupled physical and biochemical upper-ocean and atmospheric boundary layer processes at spatial and temporal scales ranging from meters to hundreds of kilometers and seconds to seasons. In addition, the coastal zone is strongly affected by terrestrial influences such as freshwater runoff and waste effluents, the major sources of which are found in the Baltic Sea and the southern North Sea (Johannessen et al., 1993). The Norwegian Coastal Current (NCC) is the most prominent feature of the coastal zone. It acts as the highway for transporting nearly all the pelagic chemical and biochemical material entering the North Sea, and spreads it from the Skagerrak to the Barents Sea. As such, it strongly influences the near-coast water quality, which is of major importance for the rapidly increasing fish farming industry. Blooms of harmful algae, such as the Chrysocromulina polylepis toxic bloom in 1988 (Dundas et al., 1989; Johannessen et al., 1988), have clearly demonstrated that this major industry is highly vulnerable. In the future, it is likely that there will be increasing demand for quality flags which document that marine food comes from a “clean” environment. Over the past two decades, the means to observe and model the Norwegian coastal zone, including the Norwegian Coastal Current, have gradually improved through a) developments of in situ and remote sensing observational technologies; b) advances in numerical simulation and high performance computing; and c) new methods for assimilation of heterogenic, time-dependent atmospheric, oceanic and chemical data. Despite these developments there are still major deficiencies in our ability to understand and describe the variability of the NCC and its influence on the marine environment and ecology, locally as well as downstream. These deficiencies arise from lack of regular observations as well as from gaps in our knowledge of the many processes involved. Closely allied with these is the need to fully integrate an adequate hierarchical set of properly validated models capable of assimilating the heterogenic data and simulating the state and evolution of the system with its large range of underlying components.